Even at four, Terry is built like a Great Dane who works out. So when, on his first day at school, he barges into wee Jack, there’s no question of who will be sent flying. Terry stands in front of me, sheepishly.
“Terry,” I say, gravely. “You knocked over Jack and he’s hurt.” Jack howls to underline the point.
“I didn’t mean to.”
“I’m sure you didn’t. You know that it is wrong to hurt people on purpose, don’t you?”
Terry nods. “It was an accident,” comes the gruff reply.
“Well, even if you didn’t mean to, Jack is still hurt. See how upset he is.” Jack is currently working towards a nomination for Best Actor in a Playground Incident. Terry himself now looks on the point of tears; the classic gentle giant. “Now, what do you think would make him feel better?” I ask.
Terry’s face brightens. “Flowers?” he suggests.
One of the challenges and joys of taking a Reception class is that they don’t actually know how to be in school. They haven’t learnt the jargon and the conventions.
When I was new to the age group, many a time and oft this caught me out. The week before Mother’s Day saw me washing daffodils because I’d asked the children to ‘paint the flowers’. When I said that we were going to record the results of our ‘what things float’ investigation in a table, they wanted to know whether to write on the table-top or the legs. And I quickly learnt that “would you come and read with me, please?” would, as often as not, be answered with a ‘no’ from children who hadn’t worked out that it actually wasn’t a request.
Eventually, explicitness becomes second-nature. And children learn to answer questions such as ‘are you a packed lunch or a dinner?’ without a blink.
But even further up the school, sometimes you get caught out. This week, I was trying to explain speech marks to Timothy but it just wasn’t lodging. We’d written in speech bubbles and then tried to put the same speech into prose but Timothy just couldn’t get where to put the closing marks. Eventually I drew a stick Mr Headteacher – curly hair and all:
“Be your best self! Said Mr Headteacher.” wrote Timothy. Again.
“You need to put only the words that he actually speaks inside the speech bubble,” I tell him. Again. “Look, what is actually coming out of his mouth?”
Timothy frowns at me. “Saliva?” he asks.
Beam me up, Scotty.
If you are not already signed up to GiveAsYouLive to help fund Parkinson’s research, please please do. It’s easy, it costs nothing and it will bring a cure nearer. The link is here.
The first year of The Jelly Chronicles, with a few added pics, is available as an e-book here. It’s £2.99 plus VAT and profits are going to The Cure Parkinson’s Trust. Seems to only work on i-Pads at the moment, alas, though if anyone can figure out how to read it on Android or PC, I’d love to know.