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» School Assemblies

Edward bear goes bump, bump, bump
I went to a high achieving state school in Derbyshire. I loved school and the vast majority of my teachers and everything about it. I'm clearly a product of a good system because now I'm, well, also a teacher!

My year group quickly achieved infamy as the worst in the school, coming to a head in Year 10 when two boys, including the son of a councillor, were expelled for smoking weed on the school buses, the first permanent exclusions the school had seen in eight years. This resulted in a stern talking to or so about the dangers of drugs etc etc.

Not long after, one of the more chavvy lads, not being the brightest of sparks, decided to skin up on a school trip. He was caught by the teachers, and following the precedent set with the other two boys was swiftly expelled. What followed shortly after results in the single most bizarre experience of my education.

The-then head of middle school Mrs Underhill or "Thunderkill" as she was known, who soon after went on to become the headteacher, was an interesting character. Part-Scouse, part-Sicilian, she was fond of informing us how she had dragged herself up out of a paper bag in order to become the furher of our great Empire. An emergency assembly was called solely for our year group in the smaller hall normally reserved for lower school. On the stage lay two props- an A-frame ladder, and a teddy bear. Mrs Underhill picked up the teddy bear and said in that soft but terrifying voice some teachers have perfected that you know will erupt at any second: “This is Edward bear. He is trying to get to the top of the stairs but every time he gets near the top, he falls: BUMP BUMP BUMP!” She mimed the poor teddy walking up the ladder, then literally smashed the shit out of its head bumping it on every step on the way downwards. “He tries and tries, but no matter how hard he tries he just can’t make it: BUMP BUMP BUMP!” This process was repeated several times, each time with the “bumps” becoming more and more aggressive. “Why am I doing this?” she eventually barked, as if the link to the surreal teddy-bear related narrative was obvious, the eruption threatening at any moment, “Because every time I think this year group is turning a corner, you manage to mess up again! You are Edward bear!” We sat in stunned silence. “Now we all know what a shamaleen is.” We sat there, baffled, as every kid in the room turned to the person next to them with a confused expression on their face as if to say “I don’t know what a shamaleen is…..what the fuck’s a shamaleen??” Eventually the penny dropped for some of us…..in her Scouscilian accent she was trying to say “chameleon.” She glared at us “Every single one of you is a shamaleen……because you knew. You knew this was going on” (too bloody right we knew, half the year group was at it! One form had even purchased a communal bong!) “And none of you said anything because” (and here came the explosion) “YOU WERE TOO SCARED TO DOB YOUR MATES IN.” Cue a tirade of genuinely terrifying crazed screaming in ever-excited Scouse tones for the next five minutes or so, before the assembly was wrapped up with a heart-warming triumphant climb to the top of the ladder by Edward bear accompanied by a few words regarding how, if Edward could make it to the top, so could we.

Not a teaching strategy I ever plan to repeat in my own career, I can tell you that now!

Quick edit: Now I remember, this woman was also responsible for another bizarre....if not downright dangerous....assembly. We had to stand up for assembly, and one time in the blazing July heat a pupil fainted, to be caught by their classmates. "After that interruption, I am going to start my assembly all over again," she said. A SECOND pupil fainted, for the scenario to start again....the whole assembly restarted yet again. It was only when a third pupil fainted, a boy in my form, and all the pupils behind him parted like the Red Sea, ensuring that he loudly hit the deck on the parque floor, that the assembly was finally abandonded! xx
(Sat 15th Jun 2013, 12:15, More)

» Bad Smells

Classroom farts
I know this is a classic in my profession, but one that I feel deserves a mention.

When I first started teaching, like so many I used alcohol and comfort eating as a crutch to get me through that difficult NQT year. It was not an easy school, and in my first term I began to drink Tennents Super with an alarming regularity for someone with a job and a roof over their head.

One night I had quite a heavy Tennents session coupled with a massive curry.....a vegetable Naga with all the trimmings, blow your head off spicy, just how I like it. The next day my stomach was brewing some terrible treats. How was I going to survive in the classroom?

I felt a big fart brewing whilst teaching Year 7 History, and suddenly it hit me what I should do. I went and stood next to a kid who I knew would be blamed for the toxic fart, pretended to look at what he was writing over his shoulder, and let out a massive silent but violent, then walked off. The heaviness of the hot curry/ tramp juice fuelled fart meant that it took a few seconds to hit the noses of the other children, at which point I was at a safe distance. "Eurghhhhh.....[kid's name]!" the other kids began shouting. The boy began to protest, so to add authenticity I joined in with the class: "That was absolutely disgusting! If you are going to do that again, I suggest you go outside! I will not tolerate smells like that in my classroom!" I was really laying it on thick, in the hope that no-one would suspect me.

I thought I was really clever, but when I relayed my antics to some of my colleagues, apparently it's a tried and tested staple! xx
(Sat 18th Jan 2014, 14:18, More)

» Lego

Lego as religious propaganda
OK, so I'm a secondary school Religious Studies teacher. For the record (though it really shouldn't matter) I would describe my personal religious belief as broadly atheist with a hint of agnosticism.

In my first school during my first year teaching I had a girl in my tutor group who I also taught for RS (amongst the other Humanities subjects). When parents' evening arrived, it became quite clear that this girl's father was what I would describe as an evangelical atheist. To the point where he had a large black and yellow tattoo running down the length of his forearm saying "ATHEIST" in big capital letters. He grilled me repeatedly on my religious beliefs, and didn't seem bothered about discussing how she was settling into Year 7, or getting on in the FOUR other subjects I taught her for. He left satisfied that I wasn't some kind of religious nut and, being broadly atheist myself, not going to be in the process of filling his daughter's head with "propaganda."

All went fine, until a couple of months down the line, when we were doing the story of Moses. I used RS teacher staple resource "The Brick Testament", a fab website that has dioramas of Bible stories in Lego with all the fabulous gory, sexy, violent Old Testament bits left in, and set the kids a homework to re-cap the story on the website for themselves at home.

Shortly after, the school received a long, ranting letter from aforementioned parent stating he was withdrawing his daughter from my RS lessons, as I had "promoted religion through use of a children's toy." I mean, come on. Seriously? I just thought it would be a nicer way for the kids to engage with the story than reading the KJV Bible! Well, us Humanities teachers had a right good laugh about it! xx
(Thu 24th Oct 2013, 19:12, More)

» Bad Smells

Fart midwife
I was once out with family in a very busy Islington pub celebrating a family birthday and a promotion. I had the worst trapped wind ever, and was in quite considerable pain. "Mum" I said, "I've got a horrible fart baby."

Mum, being slightly merry at this point, jumped to attention and proclaimed "Don't worry! I'll be your fart midwife!" and proceeded to rub my stomach and lower back until I let out an exceptionally heavy, evil smelling fart. Once I'd gone into labour, they just kept on coming!

Well, as I said the pub was incredibly busy, but these farts cleared a massive space around us. Every so often, someone would breach the imaginary line of fart safety, only to recoil in horror at the smell. Mum seemed horrified at what she'd had a hand in the birth of. "Why do they smell like that?" I didn't know. Being a girl, my farts don't usually smell at all.

The next day, I came down ill with a virus. A few days after that, mum rang to say that she'd come down ill too and the day before she had suffered from toxic farts as well. Strange. xx
(Sat 18th Jan 2014, 14:03, More)