I can work wonders with glue

15th May 2009 at 01:00

As a headteacher in these enlightened times, I bet you think I spend much of my time tracking and targeting. Anything but. In fact, those are the bits I avoid like swine flu, because the real delights of my job revolve around children and people.

And fixing things.

In school, I have a reputation for being a Mr Fixit, and there are certainly always plenty of things to fix. Like Nathan's spectacles. Since joining us at three and a half, Nathan has had problems with his specs and, as a wearer myself, I sympathised from the start.

When he was in our nursery, Nathan's heavy plastic frames slid down and off his nose as soon as he involved himself with anything more demanding than sitting still. I cured this with a small blob of Blu-Tack carefully wedged between the ridge of his nose and the bridge of the frame, and he was fine as long as he moved around carefully.

The real problems came when he moved up to the infants school and, at the same time, graduated to metal frames. Nathan would hurry into my room after a boisterous playtime session, clutching spectacles that were distorted into unbelievable shapes.

A lens would have fallen out, a frame arm would have fallen off ... or they would be completely broken into their constituent components.

Nathan had absolute faith in my ability to open a drawer, find my box of miniature screwdrivers and repair them, even if he walked out of my room sporting a faceful of masking tape.

My teachers often need a bit of help, too. When my reception teacher stood looking despondently at her car, which wouldn't start, I offered to have a look. I'm a classic car enthusiast, so I didn't think I'd be much help with her modern Vauxhall, but corrosion had built up on a battery terminal and it simply needed cleaning. She looked astonished when the car started immediately.

Assuming I could probably fix anything, she sent me the kitchen play units she'd bought for her classroom home corner. She had tried to assemble them and despaired.

Attempting to put these together made an Ikea wardrobe look like a child's jigsaw puzzle. I struggled for several hours, until I realised I had put the units together back to front and upside down.

I got there in the end, but I don't think an inspector would have believed what I had been doing all day.

The school kitchen benefited from my interest in old cars, though. One morning before school, I found the cook on her hands and knees. The bottom section of a pipe had broken, our premises officer was away, and there was a growing puddle of dirty water under the sink.

I hunted in the boot of my car, found an old MG radiator hose, and fixed it to the bottom of the pipe with a jubilee clip. I ate well that lunchtime.

Glue - of varying strengths - is an essential commodity in my Fixit kit. Few weeks pass without jewellery or a broken toy needing a blob.

Andrea's shoes needed more than a blob, though. After a strenuous game of lunchtime football she presented me with a shoe in four pieces. Could I please put it back together, otherwise she'd be in trouble.

The job demanded my strongest glue, delicately hammered panel pins, sandpaper and some rubbing compound. She was extremely impressed with my repair. So much so, she arrived the following morning with a shopping bag, which she dropped on my desk.

"My Nan thinks you're really clever," she said. "Can you do the same thing with the two pairs she's put in the bag?"

Mike Kent is headteacher of Comber Grove Primary in Camberwell, south London. Email: mikejkent@aol.com.

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