The Infant/Junior Uncertainty
29th September 2018
My nephew and niece had been left to their own devices for a weekend. Their parents had been invited to a wedding where the children weren't invited and they were excited at the prospect of being home alone. I texted my niece late in the evening to see that they were ok, there was however no response. I woke early and my response was waiting [we went to bed early 'as we are good kids']. I smiled and texted her that I'd be there to pick and her brother up at 9. I was taking on the Taxi of Dad role for the weekend. As I dropped them to and from various clubs our conversation was thus:
TWW: So how was it being alone?
BOTH: It was really quiet
TWW: [Smiling broadly] so you missed them?
BOTH: Err NO! [Insert the voice of your own teenager's sardonic voice]
ON OUR RETURN JOURNEY A FEW HOURS LATER:
TWW: What are you going to do with the rest of your day?
MN [My niece]: I have an RS essay to finish. It's on euthanasia
I pondered this for a while, my thoughts drifted to when she was little. She was always the one who wanted to do things, wanted to have adventures and wanted to make people laugh. She has her father's sense of humour. I dwelled on this and how our conversations have changed from telling them stupid stories to conversations about life and death.
TWW: I want to be euthanized.
The conversation continued with her saying flatly that she wasn't going to do it. My nephew, the older one, said that he would.
My mind drifted again…
12th July XXXX – The Governors’ Annual Report to Parents
…and the teacher in Year 2 will be The WW
Silence followed by an audible intake of breath.
Presumably my reputation precedes me.
A few weeks earlier
The conversation inside Sweaty Secretary Head’s [henceforth and further to referred to as The Head] office had started off quite stilted. I was really just a bystander the two main protagonists were Asian Teacher and Ginger Teacher – both wanted a change: one was fed up of doing SATs and one wanted to do SATs.
The Head: So, it’s quite simple really you want to swap?
GT: I don’t want to go back to the Infants
AT: And I don’t want to go so high up in the Juniors
The Head: And I asked you to do Year 6 [turns to me]
Mr WW: [smiling brightly] Well I don’t mind really…
Generally at the end of an NQT year the received wisdom is to consolidate one’s practice in the same year group…perhaps The Head saw in me the need to move about because for not one year that I worked for/with him did I remain in the same year group.
GT: I’d really like to do Year 6
AT: And I could take Year 3
The Head: [Turns to me] And that would leave you in the Infants [there’s a note of nervousness – is this really shouty teacher going to cope in the Infants]?
The WW: [smiling brightly but this time in rather a fixed manner] Eer… Yeah ok…
The Head: [stands up and walks to the door] well I didn’t think this conversation was going to conclude like this [he had a habit at the time of vocalising his thoughts].
13th July XXX
A [very] middle class mother approached me today. She was concerned about next year; her son is quite scared of me. [This was the first time a parent had said this to me and I was devastated, as I became more experienced [thick skinned some might say] I cared less, by the last few years my thoughts more along the lines of “Good”]. I showed the appropriate professional concern and trotted out one of the platitudes that we are not taught but all teachers seem to ‘osmotically’ absorb, “Oh well, I know I have a reputation for being strict, which I don’t apologise for, but I’m not all that bad really…”
4th September XXXX
Son of [very] middle class mother was so relieved that I wasn't going to kill/eat/maim him that he fell asleep on my lap at church – we have bonded.
5th September XXXX
The difference between the Infants and the Juniors, I have discovered today, is that Infant teachers really teach – they explain, they make it clear, they demonstrate and model [not because it's good practice but because they have to].
Today was the first literacy lesson of the year, for some inexplicable reason the school has provided literacy books sans margins. So after the lesson introduction I explained that to the children that they would have to draw their margins themselves and then write the question number on one side of the line and write their answer on the other side – I also explained that the margin shouldn't be too wide, 'about the width of your ruler…'
Child A came up to me at the end of the lesson to declaim proudly that she'd finished her book, I was busy so I replied, "That's nice darling, well done!" As I continued my work with child B it dawned on me what she'd said; the work set had been challenging but it certainly wouldn't finish a book.
"Sweetie, could you bring me your book?"
"Here it is Mr Woodworker"
As I opened her book I realised my mistake, I jumped in ahead of the children, I'd explained how to draw a margin, I'd even explained that you write the question number on the left hand side and do the writing on the right hand side – what I hadn't worked out that none of the children knew their left from their right: A had diligently, in her inch square lettering, written the answers to my questions on the left hand side of the margin. I smiled – the Infants was going to be fun.
29th September 2018
I had jumped ahead again. My niece wasn't ready for that conversation. She can only think in the present: for her, people like me are always going to be around, we are always going to be there. And I had done what I have always done; jumped in without thinking and had a conversation where all the participants weren't yet ready.