BANG! BANG! BANG!

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Despite my best endeavours to encourage, calm non-violent play in a sharing and cooperative environment, the children in my nursery were constantly using whatever construction equipment they could find to make model guns. These were then brandished around the inside and outside of the building at an alarming volume with little or no regard to my opinions about how they ought to be playing or what they could/should be learning.

On one occasion I sat with a loud and raucous group on the mat and talked about how it might scare the other children – especially the younger ones, and went on to remind them about all the other nice things we had to do and how guns were not good things to play with.

“But my dad has a gun!” pipes up cute little girl with ringlets.

“He keeps it under his bed and takes it with him when he goes to work.”

“Does he?” I asked “how do you know that?”

“Because me and my sister play with it when he’s out.”

This being one of the rough parts of town, and her dad being one of the tougher looking parents in the playground, I felt obliged to write out a report about this.

Some paperwork later, and an assurance that I would not be identified as a source of information (a kind of witness protection scheme for teachers), things settled back to normal with the comments being relegated to staffroom banter and a running joke with the younger teachers.

I laid off telling the children how they should and shouldn’t play for a while though.

Poo and wee, nice!

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A couple of weeks ago I was working with one of my younger classes. Half way through the lesson, much to the hilarity of the rest of the group, one boy passed wind. Much wafting of hands, shouting ‘pheeeew’ and laughter later the boy asked if he could please go to the toilet sir?

I am not such a monster as to say no, particularly if there is a very real possibility that I may be involved in a major clean-up activity if I refuse. So off he went.

As he left the room one of the other children started a cross class conversation:

“Where’s he gone?”

“To the toilet of course.” (snigger)

“Number 1 or 2”

“2” (more sniggers)

ME – “enough thank you.”

Small voice – “or a number 3.”

The possibility had not occurred before, but now it had it needed to be explored;

“sick?”

“Diarrhoea?”

“Both?”

“No that would be a 10.” Whooping gales of laughter.

ME – “seriously – enough.”

Momentary silence, followed by a new voice;

“20!”

“Explosive diarrhoea!”

Room erupts once more into howls of hysterical laughter, followed by rapid fire volley of escalating numerical options – 50, 60, 80, 99.

ME – “This is not helping our RE work.”

Eventually the room calmed again. Work was resumed and RE was back on the agenda. Until another voice called out with wild abandon and gusto;

“100!”

Bedlam ensued and the boy who had been to the toilet walked back in right in the middle of it. Naturally he joined in and the whole sequence was repeated once again.

To be honest, I didn’t really want to teach RE that day anyway!

Creepy looking penguins and chocolate

It was the last day of term this week, and all the 8 year olds I have been attempting to teach have been flagging. They have wilted in the hot weather, become fractious once again and needed some gentle coaxing into this last, final stretch.

On the last day many of them turned up with cards and gifts as is traditional/mandatory in schools in the UK. The cards contained many heartfelt and heartwarming messages from children and parents who have enjoyed the term and wished to express their appreciation. Very flattering, I approve most heartily of anything that makes me feel good about myself.

I also received a number of gifts;

  • a bottle of wine – nice
  • some beers – very nice
  • skittles – brilliant
  • a mug that says ‘worlds greatest teacher’ – only right and proper
  • a key ring that agreed
  • a bookmark – useful
  • a penguin made from loom bands – not instantly recognisable and a bit creepy looking, but clearly the result of a great deal of time and effort from someone who wanted to make me something very special indeed

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and many, many, many boxes of chocolates.

As I opened the sixth box, carefully removing the wrapping paper, acting surprised and declaring a cheery “goodness gracious, MORE chocolates, I am going to have a great summer!” I looked down. One of my students was sitting directly in front of me, he always does, because sometimes he needs to be there, just because – you know.

As I glanced down he slowly shook his head and said in a loud clear voice he had never used in class before; “type one diabetes, sir” and then, with a final sad glance went back to trying to steal the hat of the boy on the next table to him.

Oi Mr!

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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.
“Oi Mr!”
No response, so he repeated;
“Oi Mr!
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.

Crouching Tiger, Hidden…

After I had published my last post I recalled another, not altogether unrelated event, which I am now adding as a kind of postscript.

A few years after the ‘plasticine poo’ event, I was working another school. The layout was not dissimilar; a long central corridor, office and staffroom at one end, classes all along the length of the corridor etc. The main difference was that instead of being arranged in chronological order they were in a kind of haphazard, nonsensical order with year groups occurring apparently at random as you walked the length of the corridor.

Like the previous school I was situated quite close to the end of the corridor and got to have a good nose at what everybody else was doing as I wandered from my room to the cup of tea emporium.

I was particularly delighted when a large model tiger appeared outside the class of one of my favourite teachers, Gavin. He and his class of 7 year olds had worked long and hard making it together and had set it guard the classroom door under a paper palm tree that they had made to go with it.

Unfortunately there was a slight problem with the construction, and the back legs began to buckle and bend. This meant the tiger took on a distinctive crouching posture. It was too much to try and resist, I found a small ball of brown plasticine, rolled it into a sausage shape, and placed it slightly behind the tiger. I thought it was hilarious, but then, I’m not that mature.

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A couple of days later it was still there. I went to Gavin and ‘fessed up’ what I had done. He answered that he had noticed and guessed it was me. He had decided to leave it there and see how long it took for middle management to catch sight of it and demand it be removed. We both agreed that this would obviously be the wisest and most sensible thing to do, and if necessary blame one of the students – those Year 6’s eh? So there it sat until the tiger was retired and taken away along with all the surrounding bits and pieces.