So who's who at the zoo?

20th October 2006 at 01:00
It's only been a matter of weeks but I am already fading with the pressures of the new academic year. Resolutions for a new approach and a better work-life balance have been made.

This year, I have resolved to avoid certain staff just in case, in a moment of weakness, I agree to go on the Year 7 day trip to France again. It's one of those unspoken rites of passage. Was it the 4am departure or the 10pm return that did for me? Or the disappointment of visiting a baker and not the promised chocolate factory? Being wheat intolerant, the free croissants were wasted on me.

Last year, I found myself on the Year 8 trip to London Zoo. Visions of my own school trip to Dudley Zoo surface. I stole a rabbit from the pets corner, hid it under my coat, and if I hadn't fed it bits of lettuce on the coach home I would never have been caught. Make a mental note to avoid pets corner in case temptation rears its ugly head again.

Coaches ready to depart. Nurse and I allocated to the back to keep order and kick pupils off the back seat. They all move forward three rows, then realise Mrs W is seated at the front and move back again.

On arrival they have half-an-hour to explore the Africa section. Worksheets are issued and Nurse and I settle down on a bench for an early rest. Five minutes later they all return. "What have you seen?" I ask. "Zebras pissing, Miss! They do it standing up!" Suddenly there's a surge as someone shouts, "The kangaroos are having sex!" Indeed they are. The pupils watch with fascination and horror. I hope Nurse will tackle any questions that may arise.

Next it's Animals in Action. Throughout the display I am amazed at the parallels between teaching and zoo-keeping. Take the macaws. They're noisy, messy, like to show off and bite a lot. Or the skunk. A wild animal in a bad mood that smells and stamps its feet if it can't have its own way.

The macaw refuses to perform and drops huge dollops of poo on the audience.

Pupils squeal with delight. They are warned to put away any food as it has a habit of flying down to steal it with a beak so strong that it can nip off a child's finger. Several of our boys immediately stick their fingers up in the air. Hope someone's put this on the risk-assessment form.

Time to go. Nurse and I power-walk our groups back to the coach, pointing out animals at rapid speed. Try a quick plenary session. "Owls have lopsided ears and macaws do huge shits, Miss." I ask what was the best bit.

"Bouncy castle!" "Having three ice creams!" Bouncy castle? Three ice creams? Damn. Missed those. So, where we going this year, then?

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