'Remembering the inset day that resulted in four rap-based lessons – and the pupil who begged it to end'

7th April 2017 at 16:04
Inset days
In the latest in a fortnightly series, one 'travelling teacher' remembers an inset day that gave birth to an unlikely – and unwelcome – burst of ‘creativity’

The fog clears and here we are.

It’s the closing days of the century and we are experiencing a professional development day. We are having a practical day on creativity via an external provider with a jazzy name. Training days are strange events as you get to see people in their normal non-school clothes. You’d never pictured them in dungarees and a checked shirt, but here they are, looking like an extra from Deliverance, talking about the Millennium Bug and its potential impact on the school server. It was overhearing that conversation that led me to backing everything up on floppy disc. They weren’t going to catch me out.

Another teacher, Miriam, always wore wedding outfits. I have no explanation for that. And then there was Rod, an aging woodwork impresario with a natty line in potentially offensive T-shirts with slogans like:

  • I like school. When it’s shut!!!
  • There is only one ‘F’ in Ofsted
  • I shout because you are STUPID!
  • I put the stud into study
  • My Pen Is Huge

There was another teacher, Mike, who for no reason anyone could fathom, always dressed as an American footballer complete with shoulder pads. He was a complete professional in every other way, but looked slightly out of place, especially when he put his helmet on.

Like I say, it’s an inset day. Anything goes.

I was looking forward to this day as I felt it would be right up my street. Sadly, by the end of the event as the visiting providers packed their first generation Berlingo van, I felt slightly bemused as to how the day had played out. This hadn’t been my sort of creativity, it had been some wacky version of creativity designed to keep children amused and busy rather than thinking and imagining. Having said that, a few clearly enjoyed it a lot. There was a lot of laughing and it’s always good to lean back and let someone else get on with it, isn’t it?

I went home and, like many an inset gone before, forgot about it and self-medicated on Asda Shiraz, contemplating a now four-day week.

By Wednesday, the dreams and reveries of the Monday inset had been forgotten, by me anyway.

As every day, in walk 11R, my form. And a right group of individuals they are too. Buzzing because they had Monday off, less buzzing because it’s now Wednesday and the week is dragging. Jade is wanting me to check through her essay on Of Mice and Men while Terrie (named after her Dad) is complaining about last night’s episode of Buffy. In walks Paul Whitefield. He’s often straggling in a few minutes after he’s supposed to, but I know where he’s been.

"Been thinking, Paul?"

I await his usual response confirming the fact he’s been wandering around school "thinking" but I don’t receive it. I look up from Jade’s essay.

"You OK, Paul?" I ask.

He nods and approaches my desk. I give him my full attention as something is clearly up.

"Sir. What happened on Monday?" he whispers.

Conspiratorially, I lean to him and reply, "We had an inset…"

Paul raises his hand and nods his head. "I know Sir. But what happened?" His eyes now burrow into my own and I feel rather on the spot!

"Well," I attempt, "we did some work around creative strategies to..."

"Sir," he interrupts, "whatever happened needs to stop."

My eyebrows rise, and so do his.

"It’s only Wednesday and I’ve already done four raps. Two of them have been in science. Frankly Mr Roberts, these are things I cannot un-see. Can you let someone know?"

I nod.

He nods, and takes his place between Troy and Warren, who both greet him with hip-hop hand gestures.

And I smile while the fog descends.

Hywel Roberts is a travelling teacher and curriculum imaginer. He tweets as @hywel_roberts. Read his back catalogue, here

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