A long time ago, in what feels like another lifetime, I used to be a Nursery teacher. I had my own little empire, largely shunned by the craven cowards in the Senior Management Team (Look, he’s laddered my stocking!) ably supported by Mrs Ward the Nursery Nurse (she had taught all the parents of the children we were now attempting to instil with a love of learning and an ability to go to the toilet at the right time ie – when they need to) and an army of tiny people.
This was in the East end of London, Bethnal Green. It was rumoured to be a tough place to teach, and to be fair I had been given a thorough initiation the previous year. Hit with walking sticks, losing children on trips, getting lost on trips, having all the pens nicked out of my drawer. There was nothing too traumatic, and certainly not enough to put me off my chosen career.
So I came to be teaching in the Nursery. If this is not your area of expertise you may not be familiar with the importance of outdoor play, the door is always open and the playground is just an extension of the classroom. Bikes, scooters, balls, a sand pit, a gardening area and a climbing frame. I spent a lot of time out there and enjoyed it all.
The only time I recall the door staying closed was when it snowed. The children were desperate to get outside, we carefully suited and booted them, wrapped up warm, and set off out to make snowmen and tracks in the snow and write our names on the icy windows. Within minutes all the children had turned tail and headed back into the warm, leaving me standing alone in the middle of a snow filled playground.
Anyway, one day when it was not snowy we were outside when a workman came to fix something on the outside of one the flats beyond our fence. The children crowded round fascinated, trying to guess what he was fixing, seeing what tools he was using, deciding what he might be having for lunch and other important learning opportunities provided for us on that sunny morning.
Suddenly a voice piped up. Louder than the others, it was Stephen. Quiet, shy, unassuming Stephen.
No response, so he repeated;
The man looked over.
“Oi Mr, are you from the council?”
He was engaging, he was starting a dialogue, he was initiating a learning discourse. I was so happy.
“Yes I am” replied the man.
“Well when are you coming to fix my Mum’s bl***y window.”
To this day I am certain that I learnt something that day, but to this day I am also certain I could not tell you what it was.