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Life in an Inner City Primary - Chapter 11: Clandestine Meetings

by flock1 

Posted: 29 August 2006
Word Count: 1205

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Chapter 11 - Clandestine Meetings

SOMETHING AT SCHOOL WAS VERY AMISS. Whenever the Barbara the Head walked into the staffroom, all talking ceased. The only person who’d freely chat to her was Lorraine Raymond, the office secretary. People seemed scared. Even stranger were the cloak and dagger meetings held at hometime. Teachers (but never Barbara Cane) would gather in classrooms talking animatedly. They were clearly discussing important matters. I was never invited so decided to question Jane Harris.
“Oh, Jason,” she told me. “They’re nothing. It’s just a bunch of woman complaining about this and that. That’s all.”
“They’re not about me, are they,” I said, half-jokingly.
You? Why would they be about you?”
I shrugged. “Maybe because I took over from that other teacher. Maybe she was your friend or something.”
“Josie, you mean? No, we hardly knew her. Besides, she was only here for a few weeks. The meetings are not about you. Don’t worry.”
So what they were about?

By the second week of October, I’d begun to spend lunchtimes in my classroom. I couldn’t face the atmosphere of the staffroom anymore. Other teachers did the same thing. But at least this gave me time to mark more children’s work. I sometimes liked the phonetic attempts some of the kids used to spell unknown words. Take this, written by a boy who’d been to Skegness.

I rud on hos it wor gud.

It had a full stop and a capital letter, but little else. It, of course, should have read: ‘I rode a horse (donkey?). It was good.’ And take this example, this time from a girl called Katie.

I bort a brean tikeler. It wor sower.

Katie had bought herself a brain tickler; a type of giant gobstopper. “It were horrible,” she told me. “I had to spit it out.”
Sometimes children wrote about sad things. Take the following example from a boy called Max. He’d gone to see his grandmother with his Dad. His Mum, for reasons unknown, had stayed at home.

I went to my grannies and she gave me £1. Then I went home. I told my mum that my granny said tell mummy to take care. My mum cried and cried so I tried to cheer her up. Nothing worked.

Less than a year later, Max’s mum died. She’d been an alcoholic. Max ended up having counselling.
Another sad entry was actually part of a serial. It was from a quiet girl called Stacey. She lived with her mum. Dad lived elsewhere.

On Saturday I got excited cos my dad was coming. I waited but he never came. He rang up and said he was lost. He said he would come next week.

The week after, Stacey’s weekend entry read:

On Saturday I was getting ready for my dad to come. But he didn’t. I don’t know why. I watched a video instead.

And the following week…

On Saturday my dad said he would take me to MacDonald’s. He never came. He said his car was broke. My mum said he needs a smack.

Sometimes I would read something truly shocking. This was from a girl called Anita.

On Sunday my Aunty Janice died. She had a gas container in her house and she lit a cig. The house blew up and she got killed. Her son was put in hospital. He is on a life support machine.

I couldn’t believe it. Surely she’d made it up. After lunchtime, I called Anita over to my desk. When I asked her if it was true, she nodded. “Me mum always said the cigs would kill me Aunty Janice one day.”
Sometimes children would flip letters the wrong way around. The most common error was the transposition of b’s and d’s. I’d try to help these confused children by saying bees flew forwards, and dees did not. Sometimes this helped, but more often it didn’t. On some rare occasions, these transpositions were mixed with an incorrect spelling, with most unfortunate results.

On the weekenb I playd with my friend’s dick.

I called Ashley over to my desk, and asked him to read what he’d written. He read it without pause. “On the weekend I played with me friend’s bike.” Thank god for that, then.
Other times, children were allowed to tell the rest of the class about their weekend. This activity was called Show and Tell. Katie, a cheerful little girl, came to the front to speak. “My tooth fell out,” she told everyone proudly. “And the next morning there was a fiver under me pillow.”
The rest of the class made audible sounds of astonishment. Five pounds for one tooth. It seemed an almost incredible amount of money for a seven-year-old. Especially in this area.
“There was a note with the fiver,” Katie added. “From the tooth fairy.”
I smiled. What a nice thing for a parent to do. I asked her what it said. Anita paused, clearly recalling the words on the note. “It said she wanted four pounds change. I had to leave it under my pillow when I went to bed.” Katie sat down and made way for Jackie.
Jackie, a small, thin girl stood at the front. “Yesterday, I went to hospital with my mum because my Gran died.”
My smile immediately disappeared. I regarded Jackie solemnly. The classroom became still. “That’s very sad. I bet your mum’s really upset?”
The girl nodded. “She’s always crying. She was even crying this morning.”
I could well imagine. “And I bet you’re upset too?” I was trying to bluff my way out of an awkward situation. And then Jackie said something that stopped me in my tracks.
“No. I’m not bothered.”
I blinked hard, searching for the right words to say. “You’re not sad?”
“No. I’ve got five more grannies. I’m not sad at all.”
I allowed her to sit down, wondering how children could be so resilient and how it could be that she had five grandmothers.

In June, I was called into Barbara Cane’s office. She closed the door behind me. “How are you finding things?” she asked.
I sat down and folded my arms. Barbara’s mood seemed odd. “Okay I think. Ben’s a bit of a handful. But the rest are okay.”
“What about the staff?”
“I like them. Especially Jane. She helps me out.”
Barbara nodded, considering this. After a pause she said, “Tell me, have you ever been involved in any after school meetings, apart from normal staff meetings?” Her tone came out sounding flat. Confused, I told her I hadn’t. Barbara studied me for a second. “So you’ve never been in a classroom after school…and had a private meeting with any other teacher?” I finally grasped the real subject of our conversation. I shook my head.
“But you’re aware of these meetings?”
“…Yes, sort of.”
“Well don’t get involved,” she snapped. “Keep away.”
What did she mean by that? Was it as threat? Was it a piece of professional advice? I didn’t know what to say. I looked at the Headteacher. She stood up. “That’s all I want to say on the matter. You can go.”
Later that day, Jane Harris told me to be very careful from now on.

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Comments by other Members

flock1 at 09:51 on 29 August 2006  Report this post
This chapter begins and ends with plot development. The middle section, though, is just what I think is an interesting section about what it is like to be a primary school teacher. If you think it detracts from the plot, then I'll either have to chop sections of it out, or else delete the whole thing altogether. But my reaon for putting sections like this in, are because I think it offers insight to the job of a primary school teacher. See what you think...

crazylady at 22:05 on 29 August 2006  Report this post
Hi there,
Please, please leave it in.
These little cameos give life to your class and show the resilience and acceptance of children. They see every situation as the norm because of course to them it is.
I'm still enjoying a good read, keep the chapters coming.

Richard Brown at 17:12 on 01 September 2006  Report this post
I agree absolutely with CL - definitely keep the vignettes coming - they provide a wonderful insight into the world of the children - they're also often amusing.

And...the plot thickens!I like the 'hook'. What one earth is going on at 'tmill (well, the school)?

Good stuff.


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