Monday It's hard to be motivated when you know your job ends with the funding at Easter. The prospect of severance pay and life on the supply list, or the scramble to find, apply for and gain a new post creates all sorts of conflicting negative emotions. Still, the children must see the mask, and so with an acting display worthy of an Oscar I face the group of challenging children. Looking at them, with their troubled home lives, learning difficulties, low self-esteem and ability to create havoc in an empty room, I wonder if my performance has any effect. Then I think of our Circle Time motto: "no negatives, only positives" and rebuke myself.
Tuesday The rebuke seems to work. I do have an effect on these children. We play a co-operative board game and everybody waits their turn and speaks politely. Tidy-up time goes by without any "I didn't get it out" as a refusal to put the Lego in its box, and nobody is hit or kicked. Suddenly Easter seems a long way away and I go home high on job satisfaction.
Wednesday The report from the escort on the minibus reveals that yesterday's pleasantries stopped on the journey home. Opening the window and shouting obscenities seems the current favourite game. I promise to talk to them, and don the mask to face the week's second two-day group. Different faces but the same troubled lives. My self-image is now probably at their level, so I should be able to empathise. But when one boy starts making obscene gestures and another hits two classmates "because they're there", I realise my problems are nothing like theirs. I need a job, they need the whole range of life skills.
Thursday The weeks are flying by. The last day of the week for the children and the escort is a lot happier. Even Jason, who she refused to take home last week because of his aggression, so Gran had to collect him, has had a trouble-free journey. If only every day were as pleasant. But then there would be no point in these children coming to the centre. I start to wonder about labelling theory and teacher expectations. My reverie is broken by shouts from the toilets - Jason's good mood has evaporated.
Friday Outreach day and the opportunity to visit other schools. I work with one school's "problem" child, who is surrounded by excellent peer role models and so is not on site. I ponder on the notion of context and situation with challenging children and thoroughly enjoy working with pupils who can keep hands, feet and objects to themselves. Realising Easter is a week nearer, I scour the job adverts, mentally count my severance pay and wonder if its worth it. It'll be hard to stay motivated next week but I will wear the mask - if only for Jason's sake - and be positive.
Steve Lawrence was, until today, the teacher leader of a project for key stage 2 children at risk of exclusion