Halfway along the corridor


I once worked in a school with a single, long corridor running the entire length of the school. All the classrooms staffrooms, libraries, halls and other areas came off this one central feature of the building. I was never quite sure how this unusual design came about.

At one end of the corridor was the entrance to the school, the reception, the head teachers’ office and the staffroom. Along the way were the classrooms, arranged in descending chronological order; from year 6 down to Reception. The rooms all had glass walls, enabling you to look in as you passed and see the progressively younger children on the shrinking furniture like an Alice In Wonderland type of mystic portal.

I was working with the youngest children, 4 and 5 year olds, at the farthest reaches of the school. Nobody much bothered us at that end of the corridor; it was too far to walk, with too many other distractions along the way. So it was a little separate empire which only those who had a specific mission visited.

The downside of this architectural arrangement was the vast distance involved in getting a cup of tea at break time. By the time you had negotiated the whole length of the school, visited the loo and got into the staff room there was barely time to make tea. Once it was made it was too hot to drink straight away and, as carrying a scalding hot cup of tea the full length of the corridor was not an option, I usually just had a glass of water.

One of the plus sides of this not terribly convenient arrangement was the opportunity to see what everybody else was doing. Pausing to look at displays of children’s work, meeting groups of students engaged in various activities, meeting other adults along the way. Just the thing for someone as nosey as me.

One of the adults I used to look forward to meeting was a young, enthusiastic and ambitious teacher working with the Year 3 classes. He was always ready to stop and chat, we had some shared interests and I always liked the way he was around his students. It was as we stopped to talk one morning he showed me the impressive new display he had put outside his room. It was a 3D display of thumb pots his class had made using careful techniques they had been taught in art. In the absence of any clay they had found and used some brown plasticine for this project.

It was later in the day, as I made the long walk to the staff room for lunch, that I noticed his display had been tampered with. At some point one or more children had stopped to admire the pots, and had taken it upon themselves to reorganise it. All the brown plasticine pots had been remodelled to create a frighteningly realistic display of what can only be described as poo, dog logs if you will.

Arriving in the staff room I told the teacher whose class it was, thinking he would laugh and roll his eyes. He didn’t, he abandoned his lunch and rushed off to sort it out, and never spoke of it again.

I was reminded of all this last week when I found out that the teacher concerned has just been appointed to be my line manager in the new job I start after Easter. I will not speak of the plasticine ploppies unless he does though.