Special days

4th June 2004 at 01:00
Maria Corby has some embarrassing secrets in her top drawer

"OK, I'll take that," I say to Leo, who is terrorising the smaller children with his pea shooter at lunchtime. I don't know, the speech and language therapist has spent years encouraging him to suck and blow and this is the result.

I go to put the pea shooter in my top drawer alongsideI well, I'm embarrassed to say. I have this dread that I'll be knocked down by a bus one day and someone else will have to sort out my top drawer before I have the chance to do it myself.

I keep the usual selection of emergency teacher stuff in there: spare tights, TicTacs, Red Bull and Rescue Remedy. Then there's the emotionally-literate-school stuff - "You're terrific" stickers, "Class star" awards and "Awesome" pencils - to give to the teachers when they need a boost. There are also the reminders of magic moments: the photograph of my last class, a thank-you card from a parent and a rather hideous ceramic budgie that was a gift from a poorly pupil which I can neither part from nor display.

Then there's the useful stuff; not just stationery, but loose change (there's some kind of collection every day), a needle and thread, a knife that is just the right size and shape for removing staples, a hearing aid battery, a screwdriver and a beer mat. Well, you never know. And that is just my top drawer.

As someone who has had to sort out the files and tribulations of departed colleagues, I pity anyone who has to make sense of my unique systems. Where would you put home-school agreements? Under H for "home", S for "school" or A for "agreement"? Mine are probably under R for "returned forms". I've a box of newspaper cuttings that I'm going to stick into a scrapbook one day, a drawer of photos which I root through for mementos when anyone leaves, and a carrier bag full of course details which will form my continuing professional development folder as soon as I've finished developing for long enough to put it all together.

No, I couldn't possibly leave anyone with all that to sort. I'm just going to have to be very careful around buses until I've got everything organised. I pause with Leo's pea shooter; it might come in handy one day.

I put it into my real emergency drawer with the pepper spray, the football whistle and the chocolate buttons.

Maria Corby is deputy head of a special school for pupils with severe and multiple learning difficulties. She writes under a pseudonym

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