Telling the tale from the other side of the teachers desk...
On a wonderfully stressed Thursday morning I received a frantic phone call from my eleven year old sister asking, on behalf of her grade 5 teacher, whether I would be able to ‘look after’ her class the following day. Given my stress levels and my love of procrastination, I said yes. I was later bombarded by my sister, with rules and class room systems enforced by the teacher, etc. ‘Just don’t be scared’, she said to me. Oh, they smell fear do they? Fantastic stuff.
The following morning, for the first time in six years, I stepped into a school yard with the intention of attending a class. I greeted the receptionist with her tiny glasses just on the tip of her nose. I made my way to the staff room to collect my class room key, said a few more hellos and then, ran like the wind to the safety net that was ‘my classroom’. It was beautiful; bright and colourful, full of childish illustrations and fun items such as plants in ice cream tubs on the window sill - a science project as I was later told. To my surprise, the classroom was also tiny. I could spit from the whiteboard to the back of the classroom (not that I tried). I can’t say what it was exactly but this cared for, small space had me feeling right at home.
With the sound of the bell I went to collect my class, who listened to me from the word go. It was incredible. They sat and stared and just wanted so much to please me. They were also naughty as sin. What stands out the most for me was their energy, their sheer fascination with each other, with the day, with me. Within five minutes, I had two teddy bears, a kitten and the Vodacom meerkat sitting quaintly on my desk, ‘welcoming me’. The first hour made for a fun ‘show and tell’ extravaganza, with the kids lining up at my desk to show me all of their bits and bobs and I was presented with the sketching ability of most children; cute drawings I was told to take home.
I was also alarmed at the number of boys who came to me to collect their ‘pill’; I opened the teachers draw to find a medical stash of calm-meds. I handed out pills to six children who, within half an hour, were glass eyed and partially catatonic in comparison to the other children. This really disturbed me. I didn’t remember as many, if any, children who used to take meds like this when I was at school.
Classroom politics all but jumped out at me. The children were trying so hard to get one another in trouble. It was terrible. If I taught the children anything that day it was a lesson of tolerance and unity. The children explained how the systems worked and closer look at the charts illustrated behaviour patterns; therefore, the good children versus the bad children. I was reminded of Jack Black’s line in the movie ‘School of Rock’, ‘What kind of system is this?’ and had to stop my self from laughing out loud. Everything was just so negative, negative, negative.
I really enjoyed my stint behind the teachers desk; a fun opportunity for bringing to life my game of ‘teacher, teacher’ from younger years, although much more eventful. I sat seriously considering a career change. Still horrified by the number of boys taking medicine to settle their behaviour, I wondered just how many of them were simply misunderstood. I wanted to free them, see them run and frolic over hills, like the end to a good horse movie. LOL.... I ended the day with a ‘good list’ I’d kept in my diary to combat the negative lists the children suggest I keep. I gave praise to those who deserved it and told the rest to work better next time. In the few minutes before the bell rang to end off the day, I shared a bag of sweets amongst the class, savouring the sugar coated, high energy offering syrupy centre delectable. All in all, a good day.