My daughter Rose was four last week. Now I have to find her a school for next September. Everything has to be done by mid January so I’m looking round schools with her mum.
Yesterday we went round Ashdown Infants’ site. After being a primary school teacher for over twenty two years, I was looking forward to my new experience. The last thing I wanted to do was mention my history.
Now this was slick. It was an open afternoon and they were so prepared for us. Well they weren’t prepared for me. It was a locked gate and no response on the intercom. Fortunately a car entered and the two main gates opened. I entered along the driveway but there was no dropped kerb.
You know when you go to a place feeling hopeful of a pleasant experience and you start getting a bit tetchy about the inconvenience? I felt myself sighing and getting red. I found a dropped kerb but was confronted by a locked door. There was no way to the main entrance because there was construction work going on with all the necessary barriers. Suddenly I knew what a horse felt like as it approached Beecher’s Brook.
Fortunately I was able to attract someone’s attention to actually unlock the door. I hate barriers. Especially man-made barriers. “No-one answered the intercom,” I commented as I entered. Something was mumbled in reply but I didn’t care to pay attention.
I caught the end of the initial blurb by whoever it was but it was just spiel. I’ve done a fair bit of it myself; standing up in front of a roomful of mums and dads crossing swords and dodging missiles from cynical specimens of parenthood. Most of them were delightful and supportive but a few wanted blood. I would become blase (never arrogant) about expectations and outcomes.
Oddly enough there was no opportunity for questions in this presentation. I admired their confidence however by giving us some year six children to show us round. You can’t win with children; and I should know. Children are not purveyors of charm or artifice without good cause. Our two boys were genuinely proud. They were informative and knowledgeable yet open to explaining how they may have fallen foul of the school rules.
We saw the reception class. They were active with hands on smiling staff. I know false smiles and pretence; there was none of that here. Big tick (teacher technical term).
Before that I saw the year twos. They were focused, despite having a thousand curious eyes entering their little spheres of learning. Impressive. But the highlight for me was going into the year one area. The children were curious but polite. I gave them an impromptu workshop on how I used my wheelchair. They were drawn. I communicated openly in my well practised infant style. These children were all wide eyed and eager as I explained the concept of the joystick.
“You’re a natural,” said the teacher. I smiled before one of my year six chaperones came to rescue me. On the way out into the playground I intimated to one of the boys that I had actually taught year six classes for most of my career. He suddenly felt pressured until I told him how happy I would have been to have him in my class. He was intelligent and engaging. But most of all he was happy and that’s all I want for our Rose.
Despite the difficulties on getting into the place I felt reassured. In fact I felt like a normal functioning human. There was a little boy in a wheelchair in the year 2 class. I said I was jealous of his lovely tall chair. He was actually looking down on me. So I pressed the lift button. He giggled.
Now here comes a big question. Do I miss teaching? Do I miss the buzz of the classroom and how I can create a huge impact on young lives? The answer is no. Teaching drained me. It milked me of my energy and intellect. I gave it everything. From grey Monday mornings trying to gently revive thirty over-tired little souls into some form of receptive beings to the wild Friday afternoons when learning opportunities cascaded from the walls of the classroom, I have enjoyed every single pedagogic minute.
But I did my time. Half my friends on facebook are ex-pupils. I see that as success. My main concern now is the education of Rose. That’s education with a lower case e because it involves learning to be with others and sharing gifts. At the moment it looks good. But as the head of Ashdown said: “She’ll be with us for seven years and then at high school for at least another five.”
Thank-you for reading.