Thank God it's Friday;Talkback

8th January 1999 at 00:00
Monday: In school for the last week of term after seven days in bed or, with a glazed brain, watching daytime TV. Most pupils are heading towards Ramadan. Before I was ill, it was the long night of prayer followed by a day of fasting. Then the children were very tired and excited. Today they just seem very excited.

Sadikthara, in my form, has been nominated for pupil of the term. A moment of glory for the whole form.

Tuesday: Raju was excluded overnight for writing obscenities in a girl's RE book. Signing his exclusion report, I hand him a letter of commendation from his geography teacher - a coveted prize. We exchange wry smiles. At lunch-time, a policewoman brings in Sharon, aged 14. Neither of us can find anything to smile about.

Wednesday: The new maths teacher gives the bottom set of Year 8 a puzzle (a crossword with no clues, just loads of numbers to fit in). Some crack it in an hour. The teacher takes two-and-a-half.

A flurry of Christmas cards appears on my desk. On the back of each envelope is written "Open with a smile". I do.

Thursday: While I was off, my form won the attendance prize and stacks of subject certificates for English and technology. We leave assembly smiling.

Mince pies at break today. I eat mine running up and down stairs, trying to stop children entering the building through two different doors on two different floors - the usual losing battle.

Saminur asks if I'll be fasting over the holidays. Picturing the turkey and trimmings, pudding with brandy butter, I tell him I probably won't.

Two years ago I returned from a holiday in Bangladesh to an English Christmas and found the over-indulgence almost too difficult to handle. Daily, we'd seen small children bent double in the streets collecting handfuls of spilt rice to take home; families living on the pavements of Dhaka and school-age children breaking bricks by the roadside.

Friday: Air-raid attacks on Iraq get the children buzzing. Most of them are Muslim and take it personally. They cannot believe it could happen so close to Ramadan. It's a tragic time for everyone. The television spectacular is too awful for words.

I thank my form for their cards, taking note of the message from Rumi saying I'm a good teacher except when I'm in a bad mood. I'll have to practise smiling for next year.

Angie Whitworth is a learning support teacher in a Manchester secondary

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