I completed my first day of gainful employment in 8 months, my first day's teaching in 20 years and my first day's teaching at a British comprehensive school.
I needed a good night's sleep.
Suitably refreshed I braced myself for another day.
My teaching career had taken off.
The early bell rang once again and I stepped back flat against the corridor wall and confidently avoided the inevitable stampede of kids. I made my way to class and there was a swagger in my walk. Passing teachers acknowledged me.
Unlike the first day a familiar bunch of kids were assembled..... and waiting...... for me.
I began by taking the register. A new task. The class seemed amused by my American accent as I called out their names one by one. They were actually quiet for once.
Since I had their attention I thought I would dress up the dull task by making up a yarn.
"I had this dream last night", I said.
They all looked up attentively.
"Yeah, I was a salmon trying to swim upstream against the flow and alongside me were all these other salmon and they were all wearing green sweaters just like your school uniform."
All the while I noticed what appeared to be a note being passed around. I confiscated the paper and tore it up. I walked away from the miscreant's desk, adjusted the glasses on my nose, returned to my desk and began instructing them on an assignment for their work the next day.
A little girl, Tabitha, spoke up uninvited. "Miss, Miss".
"Not now, I'm talking."
She was imploring me and actually stood up. "Miss, miss!"
"allright already Tabitha. What is your problem? It better be good..."
"Miss," she cried out. "You're wearing my glasses."
I took them off and passed them to her.
"So, I am...just trying them out."
My glasses had been on the top of my head the whole time and they all laughed uncontrollably.
Maybe they were having too much fun but then the bell rang and I sent them on their merry way.
I had a few bad eggs the second day but on the whole and with due consideration to the promised remuneration, I was a lot happier than on my first day.
At registration on my third day little front row Marie asked if I had had any more dreams. I warmed to the challenge.
"Come to think of it I do." I told her with exaggerated passion. I addressed the whole class. "I was going on this school trip to France. We were all lined up for the ferry. There were Jane, Bob, Peter and me. The bus trip was bouncy. We sang a lot and tried out our French on each other. When we got to the hypermarket we bought cheese and baguettes and a few bottles of ginger beer. The coach driver took us to this nice steamy spot and we all sat on the grassy bank of a wide river. It was a lovely day, you know, peaceful and quiet, but all of a sudden out of nowhere came this canoe fully laden with Red Indians all dressed up in feathered head dresses and would you believe it, they were all wearing green sweaters, just like yours"
The kids liked my dreams but I was beginning to wonder if I would be able to keep this up.
On day four I was master of the school and queen of the corridor. I knew where to go and how to get there. I had overcome my terror of the kids and was wise to the mischief makers. In my last class I had a class of adolescent boys. The encyclopedia had been dropped and the noise level was an acceptable level of decibels. I began the class with confidence. But before I could get going; three kids surrounded me and asked permission to go to the toilet. I was wise to this trick and said, "No, No, No!" You go to the loo before the class or after but not now. Back to your seat." They scattered like rabbits.
Barely perceptible to the sedentary teacher who sits in front of the class all day is the silent fart. But when circumnavigating the class to find out what the kids are up to, you might never quite know when the secret weapon would be employed as it was on this occasion. I looked suspiciously at the three conspirators but had no way of nailing the offender. I tackled the dilemma in my mind. I considered the awful consequences of a boy being caught short in front of my very eyes. Surely not all three of them were at cracking point.
But then I was overcome by a desperate appeal by one of the boys who got out of his seat and ran toward me holding his private parts."
"Miss, miss, if you don't let me go to the toilet I will burst my bladder." So I gave in and let him go and to be sure of avoiding any future charge of cruelty, I let his other two mates join him. I caved in and they all knew it. But if they thought I was going soft they had another thought coming.
I needed to make an example so I singled out a particularly nasty little boy. He stood out because he was scruffy which may not have been his fault but also because he never stopped showing off. It was always his exercise book that went missing or his pen that dropped and rolled on the floor until it hit the skirting board below the chalkboard. It was him that demanded more than his share of my attention. He pushed my buttons.
Little front row Marie offered me the benefit of her wisdom and experience. "Don't bother with him, miss. Even the real teacher has given up on him".
I called the boy into my anteroom and slammed the door shut. The slamming of the door may have been enough to terrorise him but I was taking no chances and followed this with a long cold stare straight into his miscreant eyes.
Dramatically I crouched down to his level and hissed, "If you don't care about yourself, who in hell will?"
Had I overdone it? Would he burst into tears? I looked at the pathetic kid and thought I would too if I didn't keep a cool head. I softened my tone and told him sympathetically how life is too short to be such an unfunny clown.
We rejoined the class and they knew I meant business.
Remarkably, the scruffy boy began to participate in the lesson. He discussed the book in hand and surprised the whole class and me with his knowledge of it. He even managed to tuck his shirt in. When the bell rang, he turned and faced me, waved and smiled.
I had been looking for a job.
This was the moment that I decided to become a teacher.