Sunday, October 28, 2007

Flogging a dead horse

I’m still fresh from the joys of being the PPA cover teacher… apart from those afternoons with Year 6 – the collective attention span of a gnat. The special education needs children work in small groups during the mornings, but there is that afternoon slump when they don’t have individual attention. The academic term is ‘learned helplessness’. Some afternoons it’s more like ‘flogging a dead horse’. [This term alludes to the difficulty of getting any extra work from a crew during a celebration held by British crews when they had been at sea four weeks and had worked off their initial advance that was often one month's pay. At the expiration of the first month of the voyage it was at one time customary to hoist in the rigging a canvas effigy of a horse.]

We’ve also got our fair share of children that have done the ‘Grand Tour’ this involves trying out all the local primary schools before the parents finally run out of options and realise the problem is their child and not the school. During PE Eric (who was expelled from his last school for hitting the teachers) runs off out of the playground. I have to take everyone back in to find him.

You always have to give children some leeway, make allowances. That horrible pupil can grow up into a sensitive, caring adult. On the other hand there are some children… well it wouldn’t surprise you if they turned out to be a complete wretch of human being. Katie has come into school reeking of nit lotion and Adam has made a few sly comments. This afternoon he excels himself by going up behind her pointing and shouting in a loud voice, ‘Urhh, they’re crawling everywhere’.

Some of the children laugh and I have to usher Katie out in floods of tears to find the learning mentor. I blast the class and later our learning mentor comes back and talks calmly to the class. She gives each child a note and asks them to write something positive about Katie and to admit if they did laugh. Children are refreshingly honest and apologise to Katie.

There are compensations, those interesting conversations at break time. Keith is always rushing to tell me about his birds of prey. He goes into great detail about feeding the birds day old chicks. But last night they must have forgotten because the sparrow hawk has eaten the owl.

Later I return to one of my favourite themes which is ranting and raving about full stops and capital letters (this is Year 6)! I catch Peter drawing but he informs me it’s his sketch of the new Titanic and he’s offered me a job as part of the crew, I decline his generous offer.

Near to the end they start throwing rubbers behind my back and I go into ballistic mode and threaten a class detention, the day grinds remorselessly to an end.

Karen asks for a ‘private word’ at the end of the lesson, I’m a bit worried. But she tells me that she’s heard about my pet mouse dying, am I ready for more pets? Her stick insect has laid 79 eggs would I like some? I decline this offer as well.

Next day I’m back with my favourite class Year 1, you can always ham it up there. I’m left with a bag containing lower case letters and I inform the children that they have to be very quiet because a family of earwigs is living inside the bag. I take out each letter very gingerly and carefully, the children are captivated. Naturally as I take out the last one I get ‘bitten’.

Minimal amounts of planning, no rotten testing, Year 6 only on occasions – cover teaching? I’m Lovin’ It!


I have a colleague who is also doing PPA cover, having taught Y6 for years and years. She is loving it too. It says a lot about the system, doesn't it?
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