What a beastly job this can be

6th June 2003 at 01:00
"MISS! Miss! - Miss M says you're to come now! They're back!" Indeed they are: 22 curled dead bodies - a record.

How they enter the classroom is a mystery, the windows being painted shut.

It has been like this for several mornings, reducing my colleague to a wreck as she is phobic about wasps. So I scoop them up and bin them.

Miss M's classroom has become a magnet for wildlife. Had we wanted to teach with animals in our rooms we would have opted for primary and the ubiquitous guinea-pig hutch.

Her tutor group present her with a gift. Suspicious, yet pleased (her last gift was a roadworks lantern), she opens a plastic box to find fish.

Actually, dying fish. Travelling on the 33 bus route in an inch of water hasn't been easy. Despite emergency rescue attempts, only two survive. Miss M makes calls home at the end of the day to discourage any more live gifts.

My window-sill becomes a resting place for distressed tadpoles and I find that they are being sold for 30p each, or four for pound;1. Plastic water bottles filled with the wriggling things are confiscated. One bottle splits, so more animal rescue is required. I begin to feel more Rolf Harris than teacher.

I scotch rumours that a rat is living on the roof outside my room. A small grey scuttling creature with a tail can indeed be seen running along the guttering, but it is only a squirrel, which has nested in the eaves.

Overhead, giant crows circle above the playground like extras from Hitchcock's The Birds. My paranoia rises, but a colleague tells me it could be worse. Last year, a pupil brought in something to support his GCSE oral exam. When he opened his cardboard box, out flew a seagull. You can imagine the mess.

We file the experience under pastoral care, sub-heading "life as a teacher no course can train you for".

Hope Tony and Charles have got animal welfare covered in citizenship.

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