A world with its own logic

5th May 1995 at 01:00
Teaching is akin to some Theatre of the Absurd. It is often a fruitless search for explanation in a perplexing and, ultimately, inexplicable world. Throughout my career I have simply had to accept the fact that children practise their own peculiar and alien logic.

The other day I witnessed a small boy dressed in soccer shirt, shorts, socks, shin pads and boots, solemnly telling the games teacher that he could not take part in the evening match because he had forgotten his kit. When the obvious anomaly was pointed out he explained that he had forgotten he had remembered them.

Similar aberrations have caused one of my pupils to sit in assembly in a comical hat, oblivious of its existence. Another began his morning's work trailing an anorak from an arm which was still through one sleeve. When I pointed out this unusual manner of dressing, the garment was viewed with a mixture of bafflement and displeasure: "It must have fallen off the peg. "

Teachers eventually become desensitised to these situations: I do not bat an eyelid when I find children measuring a table by moving it across a stationary metre stick, or a child attempting to bend a plastic ruler around a milk bottle to discover the circumference; a request to "get into pairs" always leaves two children who cannot find a partner; the request to "swap books with someone" in a class of 32 never fails to spotlight the bewildered pupil who has not managed to make contact with the other 31.

The eccentric behaviour can be studied at its most outlandish on trips. There was the pupil who packed a pint bottle of milk in his case on the off-chance he might be thirsty during the night; the boy who headed the cow pat to see if it was soft; the girl who glued her books together because she thought she had to; and the child who searched in vain for a McDonald's in St Paul's Cathedral.

And just ten minutes after arriving at our hotel on a visit to London, a boy came to me in distress: his Pounds 10 note had disappeared. He told me he knew where the money was and promptly dissolved into more paroxysms of grief. He had entered his room and spotted the en-suite bathroom. Without hesitation he had opened the toilet lid and thrust in his money, assuring his puzzled friends that when he pulled the string the note would not be flushed away. Sadly, his prediction proved inaccurate. . .

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