Thank God it's Friday

16th October 1998 at 01:00

It's the day before the start of term and my new RE mobile classroom looks unfinished. A man on a ladder is painting the outside the colour of Barbie's caravan to the accompaniment of loud hammering noises from the inside. I go in to have a look around and introduce myself to the gang of topless men. I explain this is to be the new RE room. Their faces drop. "We should have known," says the foreman, "the air's been a bit blue in here, we would have had a swear box."


Perhaps it was a miracle, or maybe it was the pressure of the contract, but the room is finished - more or less. I am welcomed in the car park by an excited group of children. "We saw the sun coming into the new room, it was lovely," they say.

I walk inside and feel I should be carried over the threshold. It is the most beautiful mobile I have ever seen, large and airy, with white vinyl walls, a blue-grey carpet and a strong smell of paint. I pin up my velvet pictures of Mecca, put our bronze Buddha on a table, and slowly the room develops a character. Perhaps I should call it the Spirit Zone.


I talk with a Year 8 class about why it is nice to have a new room. We are starting work on birth ceremonies, which seems a good way to begin. "You don't have to share any more," says one girl. My mind goes back to the many years I have lived out of red, green and yellow plastic boxes, squeezing into corners in other teachers' store cupboards, always saying sorry for taking up space. "You're right," I say, adding hurriedly in RE teacher mode: "But don't forget sharing is usually a good thing."


The architect comes in to check I am happy with my new space. He apologises that some of the architectural features I requested have been shelved through lack of finance. I assure him that when I asked for a domed roof and a minaret, I was just being optimistic. When he leaves, I reflect that despite our new sink, doors and cupboards, the children are most excited by the view of the trees through our new windows, and the birds singing.


We are continuing our work on birth ceremonies. Ten minutes before the lesson, I meet a mum with her new baby in reception and she agrees to come into our lesson. The children erupt when they see little Freddie, and he is passed around gently. We sit together and ask Debbie questions and she answers them honestly - about the pain of childbirth, what the baby eats, and her hopes for his future.

Then Zai asks: "I don't understand. Why did I cry when I held the baby?" Debbie says: "It's called emotion. My husband couldn't stop crying the week he was born."

The first week in our new room. At the end of the day, I put the pencils in my new cupboard, clean my new whiteboard, and close my new double-glazed windows. And I wipe away a tear. I have a room of my own at last.

Anne Krisman is head of RE at Little Heath School, Redbridge, London, a special school for children with moderate learning difficulties

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