How to survive a one-boy category-five hurricane

10th November 2017 at 00:00
Dane’s trail of destruction through the learning environment is partly caused by not getting a good night’s sleep

Getting a good night’s sleep is not always easy. For three consecutive nights I’d been awake into the early hours chasing problems round my head. They were minor problems but, being slipperier than small children, I had no hope of catching them. So, last night I went to the pub. After three pints of Farmers Blonde and a bag of chips on the way home, I fell into a deep and dreamless sleep. This morning I am ready to take on Dane.

Dane has a stormy relationship with school. Today he is a one-boy category-five hurricane, hell-bent on leaving a trail of destruction in his wake. It all started before school began, with what seemed like no more than a minor flurry in the playground. But as the morning wore on, fed by the warm, moist air of the classroom – and Dane’s refusal to stop kicking his water bottle around – it gathered momentum. It reached maximum intensity half an hour before lunch.

Like the Great Storm of 1987, Hurricane Dane is more devastating than anyone expects. Displays are violently torn down, books are uprooted and flung to the far ends of the reading corner, pencil pots are toppled and the maths area is deluged by a torrent of translucent counters. It is only when Dane’s anger finally blows itself out – and he settles down under a giant beanbag in the quiet corner – that the clean-up can commence.

The children are especially enthusiastic about restoring their classroom to its former glory. I think this is because the task is presented as an alternative to extending sentences by adding a relative clause. In less than 15 minutes, a sea of devastation is transformed back into an orderly learning environment.

Sharing traits

As a reward, I give out Dojo points and finish the morning by reading from Skellig, by David Almond. The children had previously decided that the dilapidated old tramp, discovered in a dilapidated old garage, might actually be dilapidated old me. It’s true that we share certain traits. He is a miserable old codger. He likes beer and takeaways. He whinges on about his arthritis. I smile to think the children can’t have read this story. They have no idea that this sad old man will be transformed into a magnificent figure.

After a while, we become aware of a strange noise coming from the quiet corner. “It’s Dane,” says Alicia. “He’s snoring.” I put the book down and shush the giggles. I know that most nights, Dane doesn’t sleep properly. Sometimes his older brother keeps him awake playing computer games into the early hours. Sometimes it’s the raucous laughter from downstairs. Then there’s the shouting, the arguments and the fights.

I resume Skellig from the point when Michael’s mother is telling him how some people believe shoulder blades mark the place where our wings were when we were angels. There is a quiet murmur of disbelief, but no more. Sometimes it’s best to let sleeping Danes lie.

Steve Eddison teaches at Arbourthorne Community Primary School in Sheffield

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