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Life in an Inner City Primary - Chapter 5: First Teaching Practice

by flock1 

Posted: 21 July 2006
Word Count: 1429
Summary: A Real Eye-Opener!

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Chapter 5 First Teaching Practice: An Real Eye-Opener!

FIRST THERE WAS THE HOLLERING SOUND. Then the boisterous footsteps. The inmates were invading the asylum. A second later the first few children burst into the classroom with a flurry of activity.
“Okay 5J,” said Ken Jones. “Settle down and read your books.” Everyone followed his instructions. Ken sat down and five minutes later started the register.
As names were read out, I looked closer at Year 5. All were white children wearing a blue school uniform. Most of the boys had closely shaven skinheads, looking vaguely thuggish, whereas the girls had long hair, mostly tied back. One girl kept staring back at me. When I smiled she stuck her tongue out. I said nothing.
For the rest of the morning, I watched Ken Jones teach his class of nine and ten-year-olds. He used humour to great effect, making funny comments during explanations and allowing children to say amusing things back to him. Class 5J clearly enjoyed being in his classroom.
At lunchtime, Ken asked me whether I wanted to take the whole class for the afternoon. I pondered my response, thinking carefully. Should I or shouldn’t I? From what I’d seen, they seemed an okay set of kids. There was certainly no Faheem’s in the class, but then again, what would they be like without their teacher to watch over them? I didn’t fancy having another riot on my hands, especially if I was by myself. I told Ken I wasn’t sure.
“Look, Jason,” he said, “I’d recommend the in at the deep end approach. If you take them on your first day, the kids will see you as being a real teacher and not just a helper. Also, it’s something you’ll have to do eventually. You might as well get it over with now.”
I elected to take the whole class.

“Are you teaching is this afternoon, Sir?” asked one girl as she made her way to her seat.
I nodded. “But Mr Jones is in the staffroom and I’ll be seeing him at hometime,” I added quickly. “I want to tell him how good you’ve all been.” She considered this and sat down, getting her reading book out. Other children followed suit. Soon the whole class were more or less quiet. I felt a wave of jubilation wash over me. I started the register, nerves settling slightly.
Afterwards, I told the class I’d be reading Snow White & the Seven Dwarfs. “And when I’ve finished,” I said. “You’re going to write it out in your own words.”
“We’ve heard it before!” shouted a boy called Zach.
“Yeah,” added another child. “It’s about a woman who gets kidnapped by dwarfs.”
“No it ain’t,” said Zach. “It’s about a woman who eats an apple and falls asleep for a million years. In’t it, Mr Hunt?”
“You’re both sort of right,” I said to stop the rising chatter. “But there’s a lot more to it than that. Listen carefully and you’ll find out.” For the next ten minutes I read the story. Everyone listened. My anxiety settled even more. And then I set the class to work, even telling them they could draw a picture when they’d finished. This news went down well. And so for the next half hour, Class 5J worked relatively quietly at their task. Not quite as good as they had been with Ken Jones, but for my first solo experience, I literally couldn’t believe my luck. After surveying my minions for a short while, I decided to sit down at Mr Jones’s desk. My revelry didn’t last long.
Rebecca, a sweet looking blond-haired girl, got up and approached the desk. “Mr Hunt,” she asked politely. “How do you spell penis?”
Shock must have shown on my face. I said, “Why do you need that particular word?”
“Cos Emma wants to know if dwarfs have them. If they do, she wants to put one in her story.”
I looked towards Emma, but she appeared oblivious to the whole thing. Turning back to Rebecca, I told her to sit down, adding if she really wanted to know how penis was spelt, she’d better ask Mr Jackson, the Headteacher. The girl returned to her seat without further comment. I exhaled deeply.
Maths followed English. It started badly and finished even worse. After trying to explain the properties of 3D shapes, the class started slumping in seats or else staring out the window. I didn’t know what to do. Ken Jones would have told a witty story, but I didn’t feel confident enough to try that. I carried on with my monologue, hoping for the best. Five minutes later, on the verge of losing the whole class, I set them to work. Confusion showed on many faces. As the children began to write names and dates on sheets, the hands started going up.
“Yes, Robyn,” I said. “What’s wrong?”
She shook her head. “Can’t do this. I’m stuck.” I glanced around the room; lots more children had hands up as well. Thinking of what to do, I soon spotted the two boys having a sword fight with their rulers. Ignoring Robyn, I rushed over, yelling for the boys to desist. Both stopped and stared, then began to laugh, making other children smirk as well. Then one of the boys shoved the other causing his pal to topple from his seat. Both laughed even more. The seated boy raised his hands in mock surrender. “It were an accident.” Then he pushed his friend again.
“What’s your name?” I asked. Behind me, all work had ceased.
“Justin,” he laughed. He could barely get his words out. I felt humiliated. “Why, what do you want to know for?”
“Quiet!” I roared. “Get back on with you work! And wipe that silly smile off your face!”
Justin laughed even more. I didn’t know what to do. I stood still, with my temper rapidly rising, glaring at him
“He pushed me first,” offered Justin through giggles. “And he hit me with his ruler!”
“Shut up!” I yelled as I made a finger jabbing motion towards the Justin’s face. And then the unspeakable happened. My finger made slippery impact with Justin’s right eye. The effect was immediate.
“Ahhhh!” he cried, covering his face with both hands. “I’m blind! I can’t see! You’ve popped me eye!”
Time stopped. I stepped back, sickened at what I’d just done. My finger was still outstretched so I lowered it to my side. I’ve ended my teaching career before it had begun. I looked down at Justin, who was still clutching his stricken eye. He was no longer laughing, he was sobbing. His friend climbed back into his seat. I heard whispers behind me. Suddenly I snapped into action. “That’s enough chatting. Get back on with your work. And Justin’s not blind. He’s fine.” But he didn’t seem fine. In fact, he sounded as if he were maimed for life. His sobs echoed around the room. I stooped down to take a closer look and asked Justin to remove his hand, which he did. I found myself looking at a reddened, half-squinted, puffed-up eye. I felt a lurch in the pit of my stomach. “Can you see?” I asked quietly.
The boy opened his eye a fraction. After rubbing it, he nodded miserably. Thank God. “Good,” I snapped. “Now get on with your work.”
He did, and so did everyone else.
For the next thirty minutes horrible thoughts began coursing through my mind. What would Justin tell his mother at hometime? I’d probably be in the newspapers by morning. My own parents would be ashamed of me. I felt pitiful. I could hardly concentrate on helping the kids. I prayed for hometime. It was a long time coming.
As the children left, I regarded Justin carefully. His eye was still red. It looked painful. He didn’t say anything as he walked out the door and neither did I. Soon the classroom was empty.
“How did it go?” Ken Jones asked, poking his head around the door.
I thought about my response for some time. I wondered if he‘d heard? I hoped he hadn’t. “Fine, I think. Why…?”
Ken shrugged. “I was just wondering. I half expected to be sent for. Most students do on their first day. But not you. You must have done something right!”
Thirty minutes later, I was sitting on a bus going home. All I could feel was a nauseous mixture of shame and dread. What would happen in the morning? My world had come crashing down.

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Comments by other Members

Nik Perring at 17:17 on 21 July 2006  Report this post
Hi Flock1,

I just wanted to say that I've stumbled across your work on a few occasions, and each time have thoroughly enjoyed what I've read. You've a style perfectly suited to this.

Great stuff and best of luck with it.



Nik Perring at 18:42 on 21 July 2006  Report this post
Well I've gone back and read the other chapters and I'm really impressed.

Great stuff.


flock1 at 18:50 on 21 July 2006  Report this post
Glad for the positive comments. And just think, there's only another fiftt-one chapters to go!


Richard Brown at 09:12 on 25 July 2006  Report this post

More excellent story-telling! You are very good at providing 'hooks' - the absolute essential, I believe, for all memoir writing. I did a series of family histories for a Canadian client and had to use births, marriages and deaths as the main cliff-hangers (not very high cliffs as you might imagine) but so far you have found some excellent ways of grabbing your reader. You also contrive some great humour - I loved the 'dwarf/penis' episode.

Just a couple of minor points. Early on you write; 'I pondered my response, thinking carefully'. I guess the last two words could go! And in the middle of the piece; 'After trying to explain the properties of 3D shapes, the class started slumping in seats...' Presumably something like 'After I had tried to explain...'

Despite the slightly pessimistic things I said in our previous exchange about the chances of commercial publication I think you should most definitely persist. Apart from anything else I want to know what happened to the half-blinded Justin! But seriously - it might just find a market - it deserves to..


crazylady at 09:10 on 19 August 2006  Report this post
Omigod! How terrifying is this? Why does anyone put themselves through it? Rivcetting reading. On to chapter 6.

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