Final word - Classroom farts can be such a gas

21st August 2009 at 01:00

There is that satisfying moment, often in the middle of a long afternoon, when you know you have finally won the battle.

Thirty overactive little minds have surrendered to your will. Calm is restored. God's in his heaven and all's well with the world.

Then Bradley farts and all hell breaks loose.

The fart has long been the ultimate weapon of terror in the class war. To those in the business of subverting the established order of authority, it is the guerrilla tactic of choice.

A single, well-timed anal explosion can leave the most experienced teacher floundering - quite literally, I remember, in the case of a child who was lactose intolerant.

This is because the class response to it cannot be controlled. The fart reaction is a reflex one - a spontaneous outpouring of gagging, groaning and lunatic laughter that simply blows away the flimsy barricades of good order.

Colleagues have suggested that a key problem is one of farter anonymity. They complain that the usual suspects too easily get lost in the confusion that follows and thus avoid detection.

Everyone is either guiltily red-faced, hysterically rolling around on the floor making retching noises or holding their nose and waving frantically at contaminated air.

My view is that unless you have the ears of a bat, the olfactory system of a bloodhound and the persistence of Columbo, you may as well forget about detection. Don't investigate; remediate.

The bottom line is that there are two ways of dealing with a disruptive fart. The simplest is to ignore it, offering no more than a subtle admission that it has taken place by way of a weary shake of the head.

The advantage of this method is that it carries the implicit assumption that it was trivial and unworthy of serious consideration.

For nine out of 10 farts this is usually the best tactic. Within five minutes, the smell has dissipated, the incident is forgotten and the learning environment fully restored.

Sadly, this does not work with serial or copycat farters. The only successful way of dealing with these is to turn the event into a lesson.

There is nothing like turning something into a lesson for nullifying its entertainment value.

While this presents opportunities for making cross-curricular links, I find a narrow focus on science works best.

Nothing takes the wind out of children like inviting them to make detailed notes about how fart gas is mainly a combination of nitrogen, carbon dioxide, hydrogen and methane made from the air we swallow, gases that seep into the intestine from our bloodstream, and those produced by chemical reactions in our guts.

Those with a leaning towards history, however, may prefer the story of Joseph Pujol instead.

But be warned: the tale of a professional farter, whose stage act involved playing the Marseillaise on an ocarina attached to a rubber tube inserted into his anus, is not guaranteed to induce calm - anal or otherwise.

In fact, judging by his look of concentration, Bradley might already be planning a career in showbiz.

  • Steve Eddison is a key stage 2 teacher in Sheffield

    • Mike Kent is on holiday.

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