We are discussing a comprehension paper on ‘Discoveries’, Class Six and I. One of the Gentleman Scientists discussed (and they are all gentleman, alas) was Alexander Graham Bell. I happen to know everything about the telephone, having read a couple of paragraphs on the subject once in a Bill Bryson book. So I share with the class my favourite fact, namely that, until Alexander’s friend Mr Watson invented the telephone bell some years later, the only way to know if someone was telephoning you was to pick up the receiver and check if they were on the other end.
One of the lassies frowns and raises her hand. “Even if it didn’t ring, you’d know someone was calling because the phone would vibrate,” she suggests. There is general agreement, swiftly followed by mild astonishment when I explained that the original phone neither rung nor vibrated. I didn’t break it to them that it didn’t take photos either: humankind cannot bear very much reality.
I’ll miss these moments. Because another Discovery was made last Wednesday, when I did a days’ cover teaching at Thrush Woods: I can’t teach any more- at least, not as I would wish to do. Even though the classes I covered were lovely – children I knew well and have taught before – the normal day-to-day stress of the job acted as a catalyst on my tremor, to the extent that just marking the books at the end of the day was a marathon.
To be honest, I was surprised that the day had such an effect on me and I did get a bit teary about the whole thing. Granted, it’s been a while since I’ve done any cover work; and, of course, the PD is bound to have got worse in the meantime: intellectually, I know this to be the case; emotionally, it’s hard to face.
Anyway, I’ve officially drawn a line under it with The Office. No more cover teaching. Actually, it’s quite nice to have finished with that particular Year Six class, as they are a special group for me. Thrush Woods is a one-form entry school but, seven summers ago – two weeks before the end of term, we were asked if we’d take a one-off ‘bulge’ Reception class in the following September. There simply were not enough places in the Borough for all the children who were due to start school. I was due to come out of Reception Class and spend the following year covering non-contact and teaching I.T. through the school.
I was called into the office by Mr Headteacher and asked if I would consider taking on this ‘bulge’ class. If I would, he’d say yes; if not, he’d say no as there was no one else on the staff with the right experience. It didn’t take a lot of thinking about: if we could give these children the opportunity of joining our lovely school, then we should. So we said ‘yes’ and the Admissions Officer at the Civic Centre started assembling a class.
It was an interesting summer holiday. Usually, we know who is joining our Reception Class from the previous spring. By the summer holiday, we’d have met the parents and labelled the coat-pegs. But the Bulge Class – let’s call them The Currants – were assembled over the summer. Some were children from our original waiting list. Some were families who had just moved into the area. Some had actually been offered places at schools right across the other side of the Borough, miles and miles away, and were facing nightmare bus journeys. Some simply hadn’t been offered a place anywhere because there were not places to offer.
I remember phoning the father of one of these children. No answer to start with – even though the phone had presumably rang and vibrated – but moments later he called me back; he’d been driving. I could hear him fighting back tears as he accepted the place for his son; they’d been beside themselves with anxiety, he said. Being able to offer them a place was one of the highlights of my summer.
And one girl had missed out on getting a place at our school because, during the whole admission period, she’d been at Great Ormond Street being treated for leukaemia and somehow the paperwork didn’t come together. This is the lassie – now bright and bursting with health – who asked the question about the vibrating phone.
So, a good class to finish with.
Another Discovery we’ve made, ActorLaddie and I, is that my symptoms were no trouble at all whilst we were travelling around Europe but have been much more noticeable since getting home.
Many possible factors: on holiday, it was warmer, more relaxing and – probably the key one – we had much more exercise than usual. I think it would be reasonable, on this basis, for my GP to prescribe another holiday on the NHS. What are the chances, do you think? Then again, he might just tell me to get on my bike.