The Classroom Diaries
Even walking through the doors in the morning was a chore. The regiment of stern faces formed a welcoming wall, judging and scrutinising in equal measure. This would be awkward. They always made him feel like something was wrong even when he was sure it wasn’t. He decided to choose the closest one, Hamilton, single him out with a taut smile and greeting.
Hamilton’s eyes only moved vertically. A quick once over and static grin meant he was ok. Thankfully no sharp, ‘Excuse me,’ to stall his day.
He skipped up the stairs towards English, avoiding the sideways glances of the Year 11 boys. One upturned curling half-smile was enough to make him quicken his pace. He was gone too fast for any retribution for yesterday. He knew he shouldn’t let it fester but was too tired to deal with it now.
The English corridor was a haven. Just far enough away from the Principal’s Office to not be heard but close enough to the important stuff – computer rooms and the loos. It was a long L shape which hugged the north east corner of library. It was just warm enough in the mornings at this time of year.
The bustle of the 2000 strong comprehensive was quieter here. Scuffs of schoolbags trailed the walls but at this time of the morning it was usually empty. He turned the corner quickly to avoid Stevens and McGrath. He couldn’t stomach their coffee breath assaults this morning. Head down, he marched straight for the last room on the right. Jason met him in the doorway. His unkempt hair just concealed the lettering on the door so it read, ‘Mr. _____rong - Joint Director of Curriculum Studies for Key Stage Four and Key Stage Three English.’ Jason’s shirt had come out at the back and somehow he’d forgotten to put his tie on this morning. Even stranger was the fact that he’d gotten this far without censure.
‘Mornin Jas. Y’aright?’
‘Bollocks to this place mate. CBA.’
He usually dreaded this bit. Possibly buoyed by the fact he actually got a ‘Morning’ before Jason’s usual pre-school whinge he ventured to ask, ‘What’s up?’
‘I have shitloads to do. They just keep asking for more and more. I mean, I’ve got to have some time to myself, yeah?’
‘Mate, you were on FIFA last night for four hours.’
‘I didn’t even get a chance to see the girlfriend I’ve been so busy,’ Jason continued.
‘And you posted about six things on Facebook.’
‘There’s just no thought for us. We’re the last on their list.’
‘Who’s Andy and why did you call him a knob?’
‘Anyway, onwards and upwards. Have a good one mate.’ Jason shouldered past him and off out into the corridor, heading left to Geography.
Alone at last, he stepped into the classroom and settled himself in the teacher’s chair. He unslung his bag heaving with books and his packed lunch and put his feet on the desk. This room hadn’t changed in the five years he’d been at the school. The walls brandished fading Shakespeare posters from some production with actors he didn’t know. They stared out across at childish drawings of unicorns which apparently had something to do with the ‘History of the English Language.’ Some brave soul had even tried to staple gun something to the ceiling tiles. Little rips of blue and red paper had their backs broken from the staples buried in the flaking white material. He always thought that was what asbestos looked like but the Deputy Head had told him all that had been removed years ago – well, the stuff they could get to anyway.
This was probably his favourite part of the day. The crowds were coming closer – he could hear their rumble like a distant wave – but they weren’t here yet. He could actually be an individual during this time, have his own ideas and not fear for their bruising. He could move as one instead of in a shoal. He could be himself and not a series of number, letters and colours placed on a graph or chart. That seemed to be what education boiled down to these days.
They were here. They were upon him, a throng of buzzing, shuffling nylon hormones moved as one into the room. It always amazed him how thirty kids could possibly think they could all fit through a three foot wide door at the same time. Their complete lack of spatial awareness didn’t seem to inhibit their entry to the classroom though. A ripple of mumbles and tuts later they were all in and sitting, chatting at various levels of loudness.
‘Morning ladies and gents.’
‘Morning, sir,’ the black nylon mass mumbled, some more enthusiastically than others, but firmly in the minority.
Mr. Armstrong took a deep breath. Only another six hours of this and then the worst part of the day – the adults.