Pass the oils, please, Ms Bombshell

24th December 2010 at 00:00

The seductive strains of Romance Opus 37 by Saint-Saens fill the dimly lit staffroom. Ms Bombshell waits expectantly for me. My fingers gently touch the nape of her neck before slowly making their way down her spine. The feelings I arouse are obviously too exquisite for words - at least proper words - for, at one point, she cannot stop herself uttering a squeal of pleasure. At least I think it's pleasure. And she is not the only one making unfamiliar staffroom noises, either, as all around us colleagues caress colleagues.

At long last our peer massage training session is underway, but before teachers begin to get either a) overexcited or b) quite nauseous at the prospect of a) massaging or b) being massaged by a colleague, let me explain the facts. The MISP (Massage in Schools Programme) founded by Mia Elmsater from Sweden and Sylvie Hetu from Canada, does not involve the removal of any clothing; is restricted to the arms, upper back, shoulders and neck; and, most importantly of all, only involves children massaging children. As teachers we are just learning the gropes, so to speak.

Now, as someone who has spent much of his career trying to persuade children to keep their hands off each other, the idea of persuading them to do the exact opposite makes me slightly uncomfortable. I am, however, encouraged by the facts.

Apparently the benefits of peer massage include improved levels of concentration, increased confidence and better mental health. Add to this social benefits such as shared respect, improved communication and increased social cohesion, and schools like ours could be on to a winner.

Suddenly I am touched not just by Ms Bombshell's fingertips, but by a sort of missionary position zeal. After all, isn't peer massage what is needed in an area like ours, characterised by social deprivation, underachievement and low self-esteem? And what is to stop it - at a time of public spending cuts - becoming the primary source of healing for our damaged individuals and broken community? Special kneads for special needs.

My enthusiasm remains undiminished, even when a little research reveals some negative attitudes among parents at a school in Dorset, where it is already being used. "A primary school has angered parents by getting six-year-old pupils to give each other daily body massages," warned Metro earlier this year.

Forgive me, but it sounds as though these parents could do with a little massaging themselves. Maybe it would help them relax a little. It's certainly doing that for us.

After 15 minutes, old Mrs Tabby is purring away like the cat that got the cream, Ms Rottweiler is growling carnivorously, Mrs Red Bull is making "whoop-whoop" noises, and as for me ... "Ooh, that is so good, Ms Bombshell. I think we should massage each other on a regular basis."

At this point, her slender but powerful fingers tighten around my neck.

Steve Eddison is a key stage 2 teacher in Sheffield.

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