When a teaching agency calls with work, they usually tell you the bare minimum about a position. Just like with the CIA, information is shared on a need-to-know basis, but that’s where the similarity ends. There is no sexy uniform, no one will gasp with excitement when you tell them your job. And as for secret weapons, you’ll be lucky if you get a whiteboard pen.
When trying to get you to agree to an assignment agencies almost often neglect to tell you important information about the school itself. For example that it’s in special measures or that the head has just had a nervous breakdown. They will often omit certain details about the class itself, why spoil the surprise.
Telling you that you’ll have no Teaching Assistant with you or that three kids in the class have just returned to school after a week’s exclusion. might put you off the job. So why bother telling you at all?
Once the Mother had undertaken an assignment only to find out when she arrived that the previous supply had walked out at lunchtime, the day before No one had heard from her since. In short, the Mother had learned to take what agencies say with a pinch of salt, she knew now from experience that they never gave you the whole story. In fact, sometimes they’d give you a different story altogether, more along the lines of The Sound of Music than Children of the Corn.
Over the years, the Mother had learned to read between the lines. Essentially if an agent describes the class as nice, then it was usually nice. But if an agent told you nothing at all about the school, well don’t think for a minute that this is because they have no information about it. That couldn’t be further from the truth, they probably had too much information on it! Bad news spreads fast. As a rule, if she was told nothing, the Mother proceeded, but with caution.
A couple of times, her agency had gone out on a limb and described a class as lively, another euphemism, they mean naughty! Rarely did she hear the word challenging being used. Actually, that wasn’t entirely true; in most schools, the term was muttered several hundred times a day, it was just never used by the staff at a recruitment agency, certainly not when trying to pitch a job to you.
Another thing you often don’t get told when you take on an assignment is how long it’s for. It might last a day, a month, a whole term, or even the whole year. As a rule the Mother usually says yes to anything even the one-day jobs; after all, it was still money. Plus, if the children at the school were surly, argumentative, and rude, at least she would never have to see them again.
Occasionally she landed a job for a whole year, and that was great too. A long-term assignment meant she was were much like a permanent member of staff only without any sick pay, holiday pay, or job security.
This week she had landed a job at a small inner-city school teaching Year One. The agency had described this particular school as ‘interesting,’ she wasn’t sure what that meant, but she could hazard a pretty good guess. She’d also been told that the job was for a week, maybe two or possibly for one whole term. Great though the Mother I’ll be working in an interesting school, I’ve never heard of, for an unknown amount of time. That’s just what I was looking for!
But after three days of being employed there, the Mother was already feeling that this might not be the school for her. In that short time, she’d been pushed to the limits of her sanity. She really felt that the children were trying to blow her mind, and not in a good way, not like in Door/Jimmy Hendrix kind of a way. She was beginning to wish she’d never set foot in Armageddon Primary School…..
To be fair, it wasn’t the whole class or even half the class. In fact, in reality, it was just one boy, one boy who went by the name of Leyton Baxter. If there ever was a more working-class name out there, she’d never heard it. Leyton wasn’t a nasty boy, he wasn’t a hitter or a biter, and he certainly wasn’t a fighter. Nor was he fidgety or even easily distracted. What’s more, he did not pick his nose or play with his shoes during class, and he could never be accused of being disinterested in the lessons. Nor could it be said that Leyton didn’t put his hand up to contribute during class discussions, quite the opposite in fact. And they’re in a fucking nutshell lay the problem! Leyton never stopped putting his hand up. Then, after he’d put his hand up to speak, did he wait to be asked before sharing his sparkling insight and knowledge, did he fuck! The second that podgy, little pasty-white hand shot up, he called out, every single bloody time without fail. Leyton was one of those kids who had something to say about everything.
If it was Maths, he knew the answer, if it was Geography he’d been there, if it was Literacy he’d read the book and knew the ending. Invariable, his responses were wrong, wildly off-topic, and sometimes incomprehensible. But this did not deter him in the slightest, Whatever the topic. Whatever the question, that boy’s hand went up like a rocket.
The Mother could have asked the class to explain Jeremy Bethnam’s philosophy on punishment, and Leyton would have had a good go at answering. The ironic thing was had she not been so irritated by his relentless calling out, she might actually have warmed to him. After all, you had to admire his enthusiasm. In later life, she was sure it would serve him well, but not today. Today in a hot, stuffy, fart-filled classroom, he just perpetually annoyed her.
“I’ve done that, I’ve been there, that’s so easy for me I knew that already, I learned it last year, I have a better idea, it’s my turn now. That’s easy peasy, lemon squeezy.”
It never bloody stopped. Even when he wasn’t coming out with some load of old nonsense, he was trying to catch the Mother’s eye. Several times she tried moving him to different places on the carpet, but it made no difference. He was like the bloody Mona Lisa, wherever she put him, he was still somehow in her gaze.
On this particular afternoon, The Mother was teaching the children about the dinosaurs. She thought it would be easy, what five years old wasn’t interested in dinosaurs? It was fun to begin with. All the children were totally engaged, which she’d expected. Not because she was a particularly good teacher but because like most kids, they just loved dinosaurs.
Plus these particular children also loved running around attacking each other, roaring and pretending to eat each other. Learning about carnivorous beasts was just a natural extension of this. The Mother was convinced, even with Leyton there it would be an easy afternoon, but she was wrong, very very wrong.
No sooner had the Mother started the lesson, than Leyton started to shout out. She managed to ignore him for about four minutes, maybe five but definitely no longer
She’d just begun to explain that the dinosaurs were alive during the Jurassic period when Leyton’s amazing commentary began. This time he didn’t even bother putting his hand up, just shouted out
“I’ve been there,”
“What?” The Mother said so loudly she actually made a couple of children who weren’t paying attention, jump out of the space on the carpet.
“No, you haven’t, Leyton.” She said trying to continue. But he wasn’t going to give up that easily
“I have, I’ve been there with my dad,” he insisted.
“Where Leyton, where exactly did you go with your dad?” She demanded
“To that place, you said you know the Jurassic place. I saw a ptertayly and a T- rex and one of them ones with the triangles on their back. The Mother and Leyton began to argue and this went on for several minutes.
During this time, the Mother discovered the only thing the children liked more than dinosaurs. This was a heated argument between a teacher and child. Suddenly every child was sitting upright and listening. Velcro shoes lay still, Ahmed stopped picking his scabby knee, and inexplicably no one wanted to play with Charonday’s hair anymore, this was a first.
The children were gripped following the twists and turns of the debate between her and Leyton. Abdul piped up
“Yeah, I’ve seen a dinosaur too Miss.”
While Ava shouted out excitingly
“Miss, Miss, are you going to send him to Year 2, that’s what Misses Brennan always does.”
The Mother persevered
“Look, Leyton, it is not possible. I mean, it isn’t physically possible. It was millions of years…..”
“I have, I went there with my dad, ask my dad.”
Now Leyton’s Dad was built like a brick shit house and like Leyton he also had a lot of say. He had a lot to say about Muslims and Sikhs, or terrorists and ragheads as he preferred to call them. He had a lot to say about, “The Gay Agenda,” as he called it. Leyton’s Dad also have lots of questions such as,
“When are you actually going to teach something about the Christian religion, I mean you go and on about fucking Divali, but what Christmas when are you celebrate that ay?
Well,probably when it’s Christmas thought the Mother. Jesus if only we didn’t celebrate Christmas, then we wouldn’t have spend every spare second from November onwards practicing the bloody Christmas play!
If Leyton’s Dad believed he’d been to the Jurassic period and had a cup of tea with a brachiosaurus that was fine with her, she wasn’t about to challenge him.
At home time, however, the Mother did, unfortunately, bump into Leyton’s Dad. Amazingly on this one occasion, the Mother had to give the boy some credit; he wasn’t far wrong.
Father and son had recently spent a week in a caravan on the Isle of White. During their holiday, they made multiple trips to Blackgang Chine and its Dinosaur Park. Turns out, Leyton had got up close and personal with the best of ’em.
The Mother knew the dinosaur park there very well. She herself had visited it many times with her own kids and loved this tranquil and charming little island.
But she had to admit it did feel like the whole place had been frozen in time, the 1940’s perhaps. With its old trains, tea houses, absence of black faces, and distinct lack of gay bars, you could be forgiven for thinking you’d been transported back to another era. But still, Leyton was still wrong for the Jurassic Period it was not!