Game for a laugh
One of the joys of working with young children is that they are great fun to be with. An appreciation of their very individual humour is an essential item in a good teacher's toolkit, and a day rarely goes by without my teachers sharing an amusing comment made by a child.
Thomas, for example, returned from illness on the initial day of our last Ofsted inspection - unaware of the visitors. "'Ere", he said, spying an inspector hovering outside the classroom door, "Oo's that bald geezer in the corridor?"
Children also thoroughly appreciate humour in their teachers, and when I am appointing a new member of staff, humour is just as essential as a list of qualifications. And with a tongue firmly planted in the cheek, there's a great deal of fun to be had in a primary school - especially if you are there this coming Thursday, when it will be April Fool's Day.
On a previous April 1, I convinced the juniors, in assembly, that I spent my holidays deep-sea diving. Digging the garden that weekend, I had found a piece of wood with some decorative carving, and I told the children it was part of a handrail from Columbus's fourth ship, the Avril Imbecilio.
I explained how I had wrestled the artefact from the mouth of a great white shark while diving during half-term off the coast of Spain. It had then been identified by my 106-year-old grandmother, an expert in seafaring matters. The younger children's mouths dropped open and even Year 6 looked as if they wanted to believe the tale, but they had heard this sort of thing from me before. After the assembly, Andrew examined the piece of wood disbelievingly and then correctly identified it as a bit of grubby picture rail, just like the one in his living room.
On another occasion, I told the children the local education authority had been so delighted with their work that it had sent a burger van to the school. At this very moment in time, I announced, it was being driven into the playground ready to dispense free chips, beef burgers and a new frothy green drink named after the lady who invented it, April Thirst.
I asked one of the teachers to look out of the window. Quickly realising what I was doing, she said the van was indeed just drawing into the car park. After leaving assembly somewhat quicker than usual, the children were halfway down the stairs, straining to see the van out of the window, when many realised what I had done and hurried back to remonstrate! They forgave me when they realised I had bought a huge bag of toffees as compensation for fooling them...
Recently, another opportunity arose which I simply couldn't resist. A Year 5 class was busily displaying its skills with our new vaulting horse and I asked them whether they knew about the trophies I had won for my mid-air triple somersault vaulting. They were astonished... and exceptionally eager when I offered to demonstrate. I stood in front of the horse ready for the run-up across the hall, having arranged to be interrupted by secretary Sandra pretending there was an urgent phone call for me.
The following week, just as I was about to perform my run-up, I had arranged for premises officer Dave to say I needed to inspect a broken pipe. Then, during their next lesson, I read out a doctor's letter saying that unfortunately I wouldn't be fit to perform for three weeks as I had twisted my leg abseiling down the side of St Paul's Cathedral.
Trouble is, the children are suspicious now, and the three weeks are almost up. It looks as if I might have to put my shorts and trainers on after all...
Mike Kent is headteacher at Comber Grove Primary, Camberwell, south London.