Pause For Thought… Then Off Again

What has amazed me the most while I’ve been working in school is the response I have got from the kids I’ve worked with. Because primary school is dominated by women teachers, and women teaching assistants, the presence of a male in the classroom (more often in the resource area outside the classroom) is such a novelty to the kids that they are genuinely intrigued as to why there would be a man in their school who isn’t the caretaker or the headmaster.

The school I have been helping out in has two male teachers… out of a total staff contingent (including teaching assistants) of around 30. One of the male teachers is the deputy head and doesn’t have his own class. The other one is a year 5 teacher. That’s it. The simple fact that I am such a novelty because of my gender is a rather weird feeling to accept. But it’s not a bad one. The children are, almost without exception, unusually responsive to me – talking to me, showing me their work, working hard for me, joking with me, etc. They seem to value the idea that it is good to get praise from men as much as women… so much so that I sometimes feel a little bit overwhelmed when they all try to talk to me at once.

What is unusual though is that it does come with strings attached. At the age they are (year 2) they seem very interested in the fine details of my life. I get asked questions about me a lot. They like to ask how old I am, if I have a girlfriend, if I smoke, if prefer one football team over another, where I live, what I do, why I come in to help out… it goes on and on. Some of them, particularly the second one, are somewhat embarrassing for me to answer, and given the current climate about children, ones I don’t feel comfortable answering. They don’t understand (and it would be a tragic world if they did, because it would be shattering the innocence of childhood) that such questions are not really appropriate, but it’s hard to tell them otherwise.

They are only asking because they’re intrigued, not because they have some sort of ulterior motive. Of course, if an adult asked the same questions, particularly all at once, you would suspect something was wrong. It really is just kids being kids. They’re interested, in some cases they’re fascinated. But I know that society will soon squash all of these unconstrained thoughts in their minds, possibly within just a couple of years. Quite sad to witness, really.

Overall, I’m really enjoying it a lot, and the more I think about it, the more it just has to be the right choice for me. I have made myself a promise that I will go wherever this takes me. I would prefer to stay here when I study for my PCGE next year, but if that is not possible I will travel the length and breadth of the country in order to get a place somewhere, even though it is only a year. I cannot afford another year’s delay while I wait to get on a course the next time around.

After that, again, I will go wherever it takes me. Abroad if necessary. Competition is fierce for the jobs on offer, and so I cannot afford to be picky in terms of where I want to live in the country, or even on the planet. Unfortunately, there really is no room for sentiment. I must get on with it. I must get keep up the pace of change.

It would be a waste otherwise. After all the praise I’ve received from the teachers I’ve been working with, I cannot let this go now.

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