Apologies, firstly, for missing Thursday's post. I appreciate that this made the people who follow this daily blog (currently there are two), feel cheated. The fact is that after my venture back into the 'real world' on Thursday, I felt too exhausted to write anything on Friday morning. As such, I will now relate the salient points from both Thursday and Friday, twice the tedium for the same low (no) price.
I don't mind admitting that I was nervous on Thursday morning. I left full-time teaching in the summer of 2007, and my occasional forays back into teaching, at the insistence of Barclays Bank Plc, only ever involved going back to my old school to teach. As such, I was never the 'new teacher' or even more disturbingly, 'the student teacher'. This was different. I was going to a strange school as the lowest of the low, the agency-provided, faceless, nameless, paid-daily, kid-fodder, that was a short term supply teacher. What could I expect? After all, my old school was attended by pupils who hid behind the full-range of new-age, empowering, non-judgemental, alphabet excuses, namely:
EBD - Educational and Behavioural Difficulties
In the unenlightened period I was educated in, these children were wrongly split into two groups, both of which were negatively labelled.
Children with Educational Difficulties were known as Thickies, Remedials (and the derivatives 'Rems' and immediately following the film 'First Blood', 'Rembos'). They were largely unaware of these monikers as they were kept in a separate wing of the school and supervised by a retired PE teacher. They were occasionally seen and verbally assaulted by non-thickies, usually when 'helping Sir'. This entailed picking chewing gum off the underside of desks, putting old chairs in the school skip, or gathering food for the Rembo Room's Rabbit, which they had imaginatively named, 'Rabbit'.
Children with Behavioural Difficulties were known as Bad Kids. The Bad Kids were usually placated by being given free-rein in the workshop area and were rarely insulted by other pupils as, almost invariably, the top five hardest kids in the school were in the Bad Kid class. They deliberately misbehaved during the lessons that they decided to attend, although they seldom received the beatings other children, displaying similar, but uncharacteristic, behaviour, received.
ADHD - Attention Deficit Hyper-Activity Disorder
ADHD is a term, I suspect, invented by the makers of the drug Ritalin. Prior to the advent of Ritalin, children exhibiting identical behaviour to ADHD were known as Mad Kids. Mad Kids were extensively provided for in the 1980's, with large Schools for Mad Kids (SMKs) appearing around the country. This was good and bad. The children in question may have had a more sympathetic education at an SMK, but it was always a great shame to see the departure of a favourite Mad Kid whose antics had just overstepped the SMK threshold. There was a fine line in those days between amusing an entire year, who had entreated one to show how strong one was by standing inside a kit bag and trying to lift oneself off the ground, and the arrival of the white van, after one had started whacking off enthusiastically in science, whilst singing 'This is the Yum Yum'.
Ritalin the Wonder Drug has enabled the government to save vast sums of money by closing SMKs and 'educating' Mad/ADHD kids in mainstream schools. The process is a simple one. The Mad/ADHD child is given a tablet by a teaching assistant during morning registration, and by about 10am they are a shuffling, mumbling wreck. By around 11am they have usually been suffocted with a pillow by a large North American child, who subsequently leaves the school after throwing a sink through a toilet window.
As well as the Alphabet cases there are the Dyslexic cases and the less well known Dyspraxic and Dyscalcula cases. These are as a direct result of nothing being anyone's fault any more. In a nutshell, if you can't spell or read you are Dyslexic; if you can't catch or hit a ball you are Dyspraxic; and if you can't do sums, you suffer from Dyscalcula. It is hoped that, in spite of the Credit Crunch, International Terrorism, Unchecked Immigration and Global Climate Change (or 'Global Warming' as it was known before or summers turned freezing cold and soaking wet), there will shortly be a legitimate reason for every type of thickness, none of which will be down to a child's innate stupidity, lack of application or disasterous genetic history. This 'Excuse Olympiad' should be in place by the time of the London Olympics in 2012. Like every other 'Pointless Olympic Reference' directive in Britain.
Anyway, like I was saying, I was nervous. Now I'm sorry Jim, Craig and possibly, Al, but I have to go to my wife's 30th birthday party. Details of it, my latest brush with Beelzebub and my two days at School X will be posted tomorrow. For now though, farewell.
Right I'm back. Well I turned up at the school in the Micra, and parked near a window, because as I mentioned previously, the door can no longer be locked. I asked a trustworthy looking child where the main office was. You may be thinking that one cannot judge a book by the cover. You would be quite wrong. In my experience, if you were to line up a hundred people I could tell you each person's approximate IQ, level of honesty, criminal background, or lack of it and suitability to reproduce instantaneously, with about 99% accuracy. It's simply a matter of evolution. Dodgy people invariably look dodgy. There is doubtlessly a ne'er-do-well gene that will be discovered in the near future, assuming that it hasn't already been discovered. For instance, have you ever seen a photograph of a sex-offender who didn't look like one? Exactly. Anyway, I digress. I found the office and it was staffed by a jolly secretary who, looking straight past me and a small child, exclaimed to a 'normal' teacher,
'Here we go again, another supply!' Suitably crushed, I smiled, and waited for her to hand me a timetable. 'You're Supply Number 2' she informed me as she passed me the sheet of paper. I told her that I preferred Mr Supply Number 2 in front of the pupils. She smiled, vacantly.
Registration was short, as their was an assembly. It was, as required by UK law, a religious assembly. A woman in authority, a deputy head I would assume, spent 15 minutes explaining how the first written gospel, the Gospel of Matthew was recorded by the disciple Matthew about the life of his friend Jesus. She made some lovely parallels as to how the children, in turn, should treat their friends. Notwithstanding the arguments that the Gospel of Mark was written first (itself based on the lost 'Q' Gospel), and that Matthew was based on Mark and written many years after Jesus had died by a scribe who never knew Him, it was an uplifting start to the day.
The teaching day consisted of five lessons, two rugby lessons and three football lessons. As always there was a marked difference in the attitude and behaviour of the children depending on which game they were playing. In brief, during the rugby lessons there was a degree of rough and tumble and some banter with me, but I could sense an underlying respect for each other and for me. Conversely during football lessons every other word shouted was Anglo-Saxon in origin, and there was a lot of spitting. And the pupils were no angels either. Seriously though, the change was staggering. I'm not saying that football turns every player into a lower life-form, but lower life-forms do tend to gravitate towards football. Ask yourself whether Princess Diana would have had an affair with Lee Bowyer (or Wayne Rooney, were she alive today)? I proposed this hypothesis to a football fan once, over a quiet beer. He considered it for a nano-second, before causing me to question my theory, with the rapier-witted retort, 'F*ck off you posh c*nt!' I believe that, in football parlance, that is referred to as an 'own goal'.
I locked myself in the PE Office for break and lunch, thereby avoiding the awkwardness of pretending to complete a Sudoku puzzle, or reading a week-old copy of the Times Educational Supplement, while people poked each other, pointed and whispered. The classroom can be an intimidating place for a supply teacher, but nowhere near as threatening as a staff room.
During the final lesson of the day I managed to tear my trousers from the waistband to the bottom of the gussett, whilst demonstrating the technique for tackling an opposing player in rugby. If you have never ended up on the floor, surrounded by hysterical eleven year old boys, with your underpants showing through the split crotch of your tracksuit, you have never;
a. Heard laughter like it, or
b. Been more embarrassed
At the end of the day I made the way to the office to have my time sheet faxed through to Supply HQ. The jolly secretary greeted me with a 'you must be mad doing supply!' I explained that I was just doing it for money until a photocopying and door-buzzer answering job became available. Once again her eyes misted over as she smiled.
As I got to the car and pretended to unlock it, I came to the conclusion that every car in the car-park was better than mine. I decided to start keeping a count of how many cars I see every day that are worse than mine. Currently, I am on zero.
I got to my wife's school and parked outside to pick her up. Two sixteen year old girls I used to teach stopped to chat. Having issues with the window, I opened the door to speak to them. After a few awkward pleasantries they headed home. As my wife got in the car a couple of minutes later she exclaimed 'My God, what happened to your trousers?' Horrified I realised that I had just opened the door to talk to two female ex-pupils, whilst wearing, essentially, crotchless leg-wear, with my knees, due to the cramped nature of the Micra, as far apart as possible.
In the evening I sat on the left hand side of the big sofa, watched TV and thought about death.