Thursday, 5 July 2012

School's out

The last teaching job I had was covering one day a week in a nursery in deepest Newham. It was a school in the middle of a housing state in an area of the Docklands untouched by regeneration of any kind. Unlike my old school, the children were from every country in the world. There were some white East End kids too, with accents that made the cast of Eastenders sound like the Duchess of Devonshire.

I liked the nursery, which was relatively undemanding, as the kids are allowed to, you know, play and be kids (though let’s see how long that lasts with the Prince of Darkness currently in charge of education – soon no doubt 3 and 4 year olds will be forced to conjugate Latin verbs, and write in copperplate using a quill pen, and their teacher’s salary will be docked for each kid that fails the weekly Ofsted inspection.)

I seemed to spend most of the time sweeping up sand and glitter, rice krispies and cornflakes (the messy play area – take messy substance, explore it, examine it, pour it on your friend’s head, THROW IT ON THE FLOOR) and arbitrating whose go it was on the scooters (there are never enough scooters.)

And trying to follow children around and take notes on them – this is one of the absurd effects of state controlled education, instead of being able to interact with them, you have to prove you are doing your job all the time – otherwise there is not enough EVIDENCE that children are reaching their TARGETS. It’s not enough for you to say, I know this child, I know what they can do.

Anyway, I liked the children there a lot. They are so spontaneous and direct at that age, it is really refreshing. My favourite was Reece, who had spacey wide blue eyes, he had serious speech and language issues (mum ‘didn’t have time’ to take him to the therapist – v v aggravating, when you know how stretched speech and language services are and that it takes a 100 years to get a referral) in that you couldn’t understand what he said most of the time.

He was a dear affectionate little soul and used to lean on me casually in a way that was so nice and trusting, and sometimes throw his arms around me and kiss me – in that way that little kids do who don’t really understand what you do when you kiss,he used to kind of just smoosh his face against mine.

It broke my heart when he tried to talk to me and I couldn’t understand him. Sometimes he was clearly asking a question but I didn’t know what it was, I ended up saying ‘Show me’ but sometimes he couldn’t. For now he is used to this frustration but as he gets older how much worse it will be for him. You can’t believe a parent would let their child live with this frustration and misery – a basic human need, the need to communicate – when they could do something about it.

 But anyway, mostly I take fond memories away of the kids there, they were lovely and funny. It is quite an education, being with such young ones. The way everything they want and need is so upfront and so close to the surface. And if I thought how special it was seeing things afresh through the eyes of Year 1 kids, it was even better seeing the world from the perspective of the 3 and 4 year olds.

 It was a nice job to finish up on in my teaching career.

But I still hope I don’t have to go back to school ever again.


  1. Ah, poor little sod. I hope he finds the right person who gives a fuck about him full-time :(

    I just read the Call the Midwife book. Quite the insight into the old Docklands. Can recommend it... I couldn't have faced the TV series though.

  2. That's right - make me cry.

  3. Sorry Arabella, didn't mean to make you cry. And not to worry, because schools are very good at sorting things out in the face of parental uselessness. And maybe I'm unfair, his parents must be doing something right, because he's such a dear little boy.

    B, I would like to read that a lot - I couldn't face the TV series though apparently it was good.

  4. kids are tougher than we sometimes give them credit for.

    fuck measuring everything, by the way.