“She likes patterns.”
There is a general nodding, particularly from the distaff side of the class. “She wears a lot of patterns,” confirms one ten year old fashionista.
“And stripes,” adds another.
“And chunky jewellery.”
I write ‘patterns and stripes’ on the white board and the class won’t let me rest until I have added ‘chunky jewellery’. Then we try and think of further inspiration for our dormant muses. For, while Mrs Berry is at her daughter’s graduation, Class Five and I are sneakily preparing the farewell book which we will be her present at the end of term, when she sets sail to become Deputy Head of Woolly Meadows Primary School.
Mrs Berry is our Literacy Co-ordinator, on which basis the children are going to write poems about her. She is also a great art lover, on which basis they are also going to draw self-portraits. Though, to be honest, were she none of these things, we’d still write about her and draw a picture because that’s what we always do.
I tell the class about some of the projects Mrs Berry has embraced since joining Thrush Woods an impressive fifteen years ago: Take One Picture, Art Day, Black History Week and on and on. We talk about her love of country walks. We talk about her lessons on how to pitch a tent. We talk about how she has recently joined the RSPB.
Then to the poetry writing. Acrostics or Kennings, I tell them, with a quick refresher on the latter. In a Kenning, each line is a two word phrase describing the subject. Those of us of a certain vintage will remember the Pepsi advert: lip-smackin’, thirst-quenchin’, cool-talkin’ and so on. Those of us of an even greater vintage will remember the Old Norse originals: wound-hoe, blood-beak, eagle-feeding. Evocative but considerably less successful in terms of selling soft drinks.
Fierce reminders next. These poems will be going into the photo album which I will be buying for Mrs Berry (note to self – get striped cover). Mrs Berry will treasure this for ever, or at least until she frees up the pages for graduation photos, so the poems will be written in draft form first, to be checked by myself or Mr Sugarsprinkles before being copied out in best handwriting. Right, back to your constituencies and prepare for government.
Mr S and I kenning our ways around the classroom: spelling-correcting, phrase-inspiring, pencil-sharpening. Belle is insistent that her poem will rhyme but, having established that Mrs Berry’s hair is “always brown”, and that she looks “like a princess in a ball-gown” is now stuck for ideas. We are running through some possibilities, when I am called over by Mr S.
“Second opinion on this one?” he asks. I look at the draft: “Natural Lover”. Best not, I agree, and leave Mr S to negotiate an amendment to “Natural Smiler.”
I check back with Belle again. “Now I know how to write a noun.” Fair enough.
A tour around the classroom reveals that Mrs Berry is Youthful, Regal, and Not Bad At Anything. She is Noble towards us and our School. She is a Stripy–patterned wearing, tent-pitching, camping enthusiast. She is an Adventurous, wild yet calm woman.
A flourish of hands from the back of the classroom summon me over to the most able group of children. I agree “Radiant”. I particularly agree “All teachers are awesome”. I love the poem that ends “Teas and coffees served to the new deputy head”.
Just Jack’s kenning left to read from this group. I like “warm-hearted.” I like “posh-camping.” But – how can I phrase this? The thing is, Jack, “Naturist” means…
Occasionally in teaching there are moments when a class in flow will suddenly grind to a halt. Now, twenty four children stop their work and look across to where Jack’s group and I can barely breathe, can barely sit up, can barely function on any level for helpless laughing.
Very unprofessional. Nothing to look at. Move along please. You’d never get this sort of behaviour from a child-loving, chair-swivelling, awe-inspiring, clear-thinking, missing-you-already soon-to-be Deputy Head.