Thank God it's Friday

15th October 2004 at 01:00
MONDAY My form troop in, the boys three inches taller than in July, the girls' skirts still too short. I attempt cheerful banter but fail; my mind is 2,000 miles away, with my daughter in Palestine. At 15, she is the only teenager in a group of mixed faiths and politics on a "fact-finding" tour.

She couldn't wait to go. I can't wait to have her safely back.

TUESDAY I meet my GCSE group and explain the course to them. Outside, the heavens open, heralding the end of summer. Daughter texts to say they've met the Palestinian leader, Yasser Arafat, the sky buzzing with Israeli helicopters.

WEDNESDAY A sweet little Year 7 girl approaches me with a worried look and a note from her apologetic mum. They'd tried to back her book in clear plastic, had messed it up, tried to fix it, and made it worse. So could she buy a new one please? I give her another one for free. If only all children's problems could be so easily solved. An email from my daughter describes a harrowing visit to a refugee camp, brightened only by a troupe of little Palestinians who insisted on running behind a bearded imam on the tour and calling out: "Osama Bin Laden! Osama bin Laden!"

THURSDAY I teach all day, check for text messages at breakfast, morning break and lunchtime. Nothing. I hope for an email at night. Nothing. I hear that a young girl in a refugee camp was shot while at her desk at a UN school. I think back to my worried little Year 7 pupil and wait for my daughter to call. Nothing.

FRIDAY Contact! She'd used up her credit on calls to her friends. With her return imminent, I begin to hope she might survive after all. I decide to make peace in the Middle East the focus of form prayers. We'll think about the suffering in Israel and Palestine, I say. A girl at the back pipes up:

"Miss, what's Palestine?"

Mary Cooch

Mary Cooch is a languages teacher at Our Lady's Catholic high school, Preston, Lancashire

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