Father's day

12th November 2004 at 00:00
Being honest is fine for children, but we adults have our pride, says Michael Cook

Some things haven't changed since my time in the infants. School still smells like school (floor polish, feet and banana sandwiches). In PE, the black slip-on plimsoll still takes preference over the Nike Total 90. And the golden rule of the classroom remains the same: if you do something terrible, always tell teacher.

It's only the technology that's new. At my primary, we felt like rocket scientists if we used trundle wheels, not metre sticks. Today, I'm helping a group write on wireless laptop computers, networked to a central printer.

Everything's exactly as Tomorrow's World predicted (except no one comes to school in a hovercar).

The children think of the rainforest animal they would most like to be.

Alfie chooses a gorilla so he can "showt very, very lowd and bang my chess", which proves he is writing from the heart. One of his friends needs more help. She's determined to be a dog and is close to crying when I suggest dogs don't live in rainforests (I'm 95 per cent certain).

Eventually we settle on her being a beautiful, colourful toucan.

At the end of the session I must check everything is saved before printing out and switching off. I am no technophobe; I use computers every day of my working life. And, if I have not actually come across this type of machine before, I am sure I can figure it out. After all, if a bunch of six-year-olds can use it...

Seven sheets appear. There are nine children. Two pages haven't printed, and they haven't saved. I'm lucky - as a proud father, I can remember and reproduce Alfie's, word for misspelled word, and print out an identical copy. But the other?

There is only one possible course of action. I remember the golden rule.

And I know Mrs Lewis can solve several dozen unsolvable dilemmas in the space of a morning. But we all have our pride. May I suggest that always telling teacher, though fine in theory, requires a degree of honesty and humility hard to find in an adult, let alone a child? How else do you explain that, somewhere at the back of Class 3's literacy folder, there are now eight fine examples of infant composition, and one 36-year-old's hastily concocted exploration of "Wie I wood lik to bee a Twocn"?

Michael Cook is a freelance copywriter and a parent helper at Ernehale infants school, Arnold, Nottingham, which his children, Alfie and Poppy attend

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