We start the day as usual with 24 first-grade children and me listening to the principal drone on over the speakers. We then pledge allegiance to the flag, right hands on hearts. I always thought this was just a joke from The Simpsons.
A child stabs himself with a pencil, and I tell him to go and wash the wound in the toilets and I'll put a plaster on it. Off he goes. "Why did you ask that boy to put his hand in the toilet?" asks a little voice, as I hurtle off to the rest room to avoid disaster and litigation. "What's a plaster?" the class asks when I get back.
The local sheriff comes in to guard my classroom. A parent has just been released from prison; he may come to get his children and, like most people around here, he owns a gun. We practise running into the adjacent cornfield and hiding.
The press are outside the door. "Any comment on the superintendent?" they ask. I scurry past and, once safely inside, discover that the school superintendent has been spending time with hookers (allegedly). The staff are up in arms about good moral standards and want his head. "Well," I say, "what about Clinton and..." The looks they give me show me why they won the war of independence.
An in-service day. A barrage of questions hits me. "Have you ever been to Europe?" asks one middle school teacher. "I wish I could speak your language," comments another. "Keep practising," I reply with a smile.
Matthew Cave is currently on a FulbrightBritish Council exchange in Ohio.
He teaches Year 2 at Stoke Bishop primary school, Bristol