School started again last Monday. I was dreading the swift transition from freedom and autonomy to the serfdom of employment, and it reminded me of Geoffrey Willans' wry comments on the return to school. The teachers and support staff came in for two days of time-wasting pep talks, the uplifting effects of which which were nullified by the news that our lunch duties, which I have hitherto used to supplement my lowly pay, are now to be unpaid - no, wait, we are to get a 'free' lunch in return. Shocked by this news, I blocked out the drone of the speakers, whose statistics on GCSE results sent the ICT teacher to sleep.
On Wednesday the shiny, squeaky 7s came in. They're taller than average this year. In fact, had the 11s of last year still been with us, they would have had a nasty realisation that their bully-boy behaviour was going to cut no ice with these lanky kids, up whose noses they would have to squint as they demanded their lunch-money/phone/ipod. (Not that that happens at my school, I hasten to add… since the expulsion of Fat-Fabio-who-had-unfeasibly-small-feet, we have had no student-on-student muggings).
The 7s dropped things all round school. 'Miss, I've dropped my pencil.' 'So you have! Pick it up then.' They got confused and lost. 'Everything okay?' I asked of at least five separate kids, whose sweaty brows and panicky faces gave them away. They twitched and fiddled in the effort of concentrating on the two days of talks, from the head, the deputy heads, the head of year, form tutors and eventually teachers.
I relish these early days. The headmaster reminds them that they have the opportunity to leave behind their old persona. Their primary-school self can be ditched in favour of a new, 'good' self. A clean slate, he says. It isn't that easy, of course, as any fule kno. The problems, whether at school or home, are often still present despite the move from little to big school. It takes a while for the dust to settle in a move like this. It's very easy to be kind to them. I don't know what they are really like yet. I
have few clues as to which of them is spoilt beyond redemption, which
neglected, or charming, confident or lonely. Most of them are sweet, eager to please, to settle in, to be liked, noticed and approved of. I'm hoping the best for all of them. The least likely can turn everything around in the course of the next five to seven years.
I am losing P, and gaining E. Also vision-impaired, there is a sharp contrast between him and my student of last year. But that's for another post.