Monday, 27 December 2010


“What the hell is it now?” asked Hubby as I came in from work, ran through the dining room and threw myself onto the sofa and buried my face into a silk cushion, my shoulders heaving.
“I’m a hopeless teacher”, I sobbed. Hubby diplomatically removed the silk cushion and replaced it with an old chenille one. The one the dog favours. Amorously.
“There, there love”, he said, passing me a bit of used, stiff tissue, “I’m sure you can’t be that bad”.
“You have no idea”, I hiccupped, “I’ve been observed so closely by so many people this week it’s unbelievable. Fred West wasn’t under as much scrutiny. He couldn’t have been. He was left alone long enough to top himself”.
Hubby heaved me off the sofa and guided me into the dining room. He plonked me onto a chair and poured me a sherry.
“Right. Tell me all about it”. I was about to, when Mags walked in.
“Coo-ee”, she called, “So, how did it go?” My blotchy face and puffy eyes spoke volumes.
“Ah”, she added, helping herself to the Harvey’s Bristol Ceam, “Not so well I take it?”
Tears started anew as I tried to explain the last couple of days. “And I’m so tired”, I sniffed, “It’s been such a drive every day and I’ve been in school by ten past seven for a week and I put so much effort into that bloody lesson. I can’t believe I was being formally observed. I mean, how hard can it be understand a ballad?”
Hubby shrugged his shoulders. Ok, so he was the wrong man to ask.
“What was the problem?” asked Mags, now emptying a bag of Sensations Peking Spare Rib crackers into a bowl, “Did you go with the Johnny Cash idea?” she munched.
It is no longer considered teaching these days if one just stands at the front of the class and spouts knowledge at kids. Reciting a poem, getting the children to open a poetry book, annotate the poem and then write their own is so last century. So, to illustrate the lyrical, story-telling form of a ballad, I downloaded a Johnny Cash number, had a Powerpoint slide show attempting to define what a ballad is, followed by an example of a ballad written by Robert Graves. After that, I read them a Christmas story with such expression and animation that I’d have given anyone on Jackanory a run for their money and then, having prepared the next task by already writing the four first stanzas of a ballad based on the story I’d read them, (these days referred to as differentiaton) all the little darlings had to do in turn was finish it off.
“What was the issue then?” crunched Mags.
I read my lesson observation notes, “Not all students engaged. I didn’t differentiate enough”. Hubby scratched his head. “Huh?”, he asked. Bless him. He went to school even longer ago than I, in the days where one was expected to sit up and shut up, else a bloody great big, hard, blackboard duster would be hurled in the general direction of your conk. He is also the Commander of a training establishment and, whilst he would never condone the blackboard duster method of discipline, neither is he into what he considers to be, namby-pamby ways.
“It’s such conflicting advice”, I said in a little voice, “On the one hand I was told that I’d been creative, well prepared and resourceful and the next that not everyone had got it. I was also advised that I’d done too much for them but yet that it was too difficult for some. Short of holding their pens and guiding their hands, I really don’t know what more I could do.”
Hubby kissed me and Mags hugged me and we polished off the crisps and most of the sherry. Two days later on my final day at my first placement school, I felt like Peter O’Toole in Goodbye Mr Chips. Who would have thought that I’d be so attached to Years 7, 8 and 9?
“Goodbye, my dear children” I started, “It has been a pleasure and a privilege to teach you. Make me proud by having high expectations of yourself and being successful as you move up through the school”.
“Cheers miss”, said one, until another, rather mortifyingly, started a Hip-hip-hooray chant. As they filed out of the door, one or two students held back. A little girl approached me with a hand made card, “Thanks Miss, I’ll really miss you”. In a civilised society, I would have given her a big hug, unfortunately all that was allowed was a thank you. Not even a shake of the hand. I’m not sure who was the most bereft.
A young boy, one of the ‘disengaged’, pressed a sheet of A4 into my hand. “My ballad Miss that you wanted us to write for homework. I hope you like it”. It had the theme of the book I’d read them, it rhymed, it told a story and it had several, four line stanzas. Where’s an official observer when you need one?

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