Thank God it's Friday

2nd January 1998 at 00:00
Monday: Enter an unusually pristine and child-free school to prepare for the coming term. Any residual feeling of festivity is swiftly removed by the sight of a pile of forms, to the head's latest design, full of various boxes for filling in. Seeking enlightenment, open door of colleague's classroom to find her up a ladder cursing malfunctioning heavy-duty stapler. Sensing intrusion, turn instead to room of male colleague. Loud rendering of Sixties-collection cassette booms out with strong smell of roll-ups. Return to classroom to begin display on conservation.

Tuesday: Children return, and head, with cheerful greeting, says he trusts that the new forms are all fine. I smile weakly as he strides away to lead assembly, in which he announces that We Are All Going To Be Thinking About Conservation This Term. Never one to underuse his role as leader of the local amateur dramatics, he warms to his theme and rises, taking on the persona of a sinister bloom struggling to grow despite pollution. "Look at me," he intones to his unmoved audience. "I'm proud to be a daffodil!" Colleague murmurs that it is a good job it isn't a pansy. Fix eyes on inanimate object in hall and concentrate on memory of report in morning paper of nasty accident.

Wednesday: Chevron (his sister is Chicane) arrives after 9am. "Sorry I'm late, Miss," he says through unlovely nasal passages, "me mam said I 'ad ter clear me bed". Decide not to dwell on the full implications of this and apply myself to teaching country code in preparation for conservation-themed class trip later in term. Take Chevron aside to explain to him that when head scores during class football it is inappropriate to shout "Good lad", however kindly meant. Complaint has been received from parent whounderstands from his son that head led an assembly on contraception.

Thursday: Ask Chevron if he slept well in his cleared bed. "Yeah, it's all off now, jam an' that," is his disquieting reply. During a drama session, one of the boys displays a new - and to some enviable - talent. He can break wind at will. He times this skill perfectly so it shatters the most poignant and meaningful of dramatic moments. Suggest that head would be exceptionally interested in his ability andbanish him to office, suppressing a fierce joy as I notice head has emerged to question his presence.

Speak to Kyle's Mum, who has three-year-old in tow. A vehicle for disabled people draws up outside classroom window.

"Mam. MAM, MAM, wot's that Mam?" "Shurrup. So 'ow's 'is writin'?" "Mam, M-A-A-M."

"It's a disabled person's car," I say, unable to bear further assault to ears.

"Wot's one o' them Mam, MAM wot's one . . ."

"It's a car fer a mister wot's poorly."

"Kyle's writing is . . ."

"Mam, Mam, wyzee poorly Mam?" "Shurrup our Donna-Marie. 'Ow do I know wyzee poorly?" "The trouble is, Mrs Carradice," I say firmly, "that Kyle writes so little."

"Aye, 'is writin' is small," she replies brightly.

Friday: Test class on country code. Children volunteer to tell rules, including, to my surprise, Chevron. "Yer gorra tek yer likkle 'ouse with yer," he says proudly. Bewildered, I ask for elucidation. "Tek a likkle 'ous' " he repeats exasperatedly. Over a peanut butter sandwich at the photocopier, watch transfixed as 34 sheets bearing country code fall into tray. Stop chewing and light dawns as I read "Take your litter home".At home, find the new forms have boxes for things I don't understand, and no boxes for things I need.

Jane Bower is an advisory teacher in Cambridge.

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