I head into After School club to donate some cakes left over from a playground sale of … well, cakes. We’re raising money at Thrush Woods to sponsor Faith, who’s running the London Marathon next week for Parkinson’s UK. A couple of mixed infants skip up to me, arm in arm.
“Have you still got Parkinson’s?” asks one.
“OK.” And they skip off.
“It was normal for people over thirty to be frightened of their children. And with good reason…”
(Orwell – Nineteen Eighty-Four)
“Time for our news books – I want you to draw me a picture of something that you did at the weekend and then – using your sounds – to have a go at writing a sentence or two underneath.”
(Every teacher of young children, everywhere.)
Fancy being a fly in the playground at whichever poor school is coping with InvoiceGate! Are there factions of parents aligning themselves with each side, I wonder? Will they have badges – the Party Poppers and the Party Poopers? Sports’ day is going to be interesting.
“I’m disappointed with you, Taylor. Mrs Twinkletoes tells me that you wouldn’t do your writing this morning,” says Mrs Karma. Taylor looks at her blankly. To be fair, looking blank is his specialism: he’s had seven years to perfect it.
Way back when, I was sent on a Management course. Most of what we were told has long since been pushed out of my head by other stuff. But one of the activities has stuck with me: the Lego House competition.
I’ve been invited to take part in other research study.
Long-term readers – those who haven’t left me in a huff because I missed last weekend’s blog – what can I say? – I was in bed a-coughing and a-sneezing and a-feeling vastly sorry for myself – you wouldn’t have wanted to read it, anyway; it was probably infectious – tell you what, I’ll get a note from my Ma who kept sending around lemons – anyway, those readers who are still with me, despite my punctuation and tendency to digress – those readers might remember that last year, I had a very expensive brain scan.
I’ve outlined the activities once, and then again. A child has successfully re-explained them to the seething masses and there does seem to be a more than equal chance that at least some of the class will know what to do. Though with Reception, of course, anything might happen in the next half-hour.
“Right,” I say. “Go back to your constituencies and prepare for government.” And up they get and off they toddle despite the fact that they have a fairly limited working knowledge of the 1981 Liberal Party Conference.
“However you organise the room to start with, you’ll want to change it the minute the kids arrive. At least, that’s how it was for me. It took me half a term before I had things organised the way I should have had them in September.”
I am still grateful to Simon. Unasked for, he helped me sort out my first‑ever classroom, including a lesson in the putting up of backing paper. I chose to cover all my boards in a ghastly, beige-y, custardy, blah sort of colour, I seem to remember. A good back-drop for all that free, independent writing my class would be itching to produce, was the theory. Titter ye not.
In the sliver of time between waving off the last child for their summer holidays, and coming back for the ‘do’, it occurred to me that I should have prepared a speech.
Last time I left Thrush Woods, I’d given quite a lot of thought to what I was going to say. A neat little speech at the Leavers’ Service in the afternoon. The last eight years have been very special, the school is very special, the staff are very special but I need a new challenge. So long and thanks for all the fish.