During my teaching career, kids have flicked M&Ms at my head. A peeved teen once got up from her chair and launched it, with some gusto, in my direction. I wore a pair of ill-fitting trousers and students shouted ‘camel-toe’ at me up and down the corridor. Never though, have I been so relieved to see Friday arrive. Several times this week, I have had to take myself out into the garden and utter obscenities, to quell the urge to eject a Small Child through a window. ‘I see your Tourette’s is back,’ muttered LSB darkly, hearing me drop the c-bomb while hanging out the towels.
It can be trying enough, the whole ‘home-schooling’ lark. More trying still, when you have all the technical know-how of a seventeenth-century peasant with eye-trouble. Things didn’t work this week. When they did work, I managed to delete the bastard things before I sent them. Everything that COULD run out of charge, ran out of charge. ‘I WOULD do the work Mummy, but my tablet’s at 7%.’ I heard that a lot. The Small Child’s newest infuriating habit is running off when I’m trying to explain things to her. She’s a stealthy wee article, and I was halfway through explaining plurals ending in ‘x’ and ‘ey’ before I realised she’d taken herself off.
The main lesson my progeny will have to take from this, is not to repeat the foul language to which they’ve been subjected. ‘Where’s she fucked off to now?’ I spluttered in disbelief, coming downstairs from the printer with a sheet for The Small One to do. ‘Outside,’ said the Older one, not even looking perturbed by and getting on with her adding-up. The Small Child waved with glee from the top of the slide. I sighed.
They have expressed great reluctance to complete the work sent by their lovely and diligent teachers. I’ve had to prise the Nintendo Switch from the Older Child’s hands and at one point I put it in the bin, only for it to be fished out later by her sobbing sister. ‘But Daddy plays it too,’ she wailed.’ ‘Daddy can just eff off,’ I fumed, since it was Daddy who brought the blasted thing into the house at Christmas.
‘The thing is,’ opined the Small Child, ‘that Miss X is very clear when she explains things and you’re not clear. AT ALL.’
‘No, she’s not, is she?’ agreed her sister.
To be fair to them, though, it isn’t all their fault. I should be organised. I should source rubbers and pencils and rulers, and have them at our disposal. I ought to acquaint myself with the see-saw exercises, before I have a small, impatient child standing beside me who just wants to play ‘Harry Potter’ with her sister: ‘Here’s comes Hedwig Harry!’ (cue a small stuffed owl flying past my shoulder.) See-saw isn’t the most straightforward of apps to navigate, and is less so when your new dog is pestering you for a piece of scone and you want to get a load of laundry done because the sun has the audacity to still be out after 17 days.
I just have to accept that at 7 and 8 years of age they need me to sit with them and not be checking my phone or doing dishes while they work. They need me to be present, which is hard, what with my head being more pickled than a jar of kimchi. But to prevent meltdowns and ensure they get actually learn something, I have learnt to sit. We ask Alexa to time 25 minutes and I have a pile of pencils which I can sharpen and papers to sort while I wait for them to finish. I find these repetitive tasks soothing. Socks have been paired. Elderly felt tips have been consigned to the bin and I did some colouring in and drew little birds inspired by a marvellous book, ‘Jip and Janneka’.
Sometimes, they take a sheet up to LSB’s study and do a few sums while he works aways beside them. Often the dog wanders in too, and his work colleagues on Zoom have a bit of a chuckle. Maybe I just need to calm the fuck down. One day, I heard Adam Kay in an interview with Claudia Hammond on Radio 4, saying he never gets stressed about work anymore. Since giving up obstetrics and knowing that no one’s going to die on his watch, he’s decided to give less of a shit. I listened, nodding along sagely. ‘How wise,’ I thought, ‘what a sensible philosophy to adopt.’ Did I take it on board? Did I heck. I can’t even get through a morning without wanting to ingest Domestos, (although perhaps that’s a cure according to the news this morning.)
So next week, I’m doing it differently. I’m printing stuff out the night before. I’m making a plan and I’m putting rules in place, such as they must not run away when I’m teaching and be stompy, humpy little shits. They must not use their pogo sticks inside because it makes my head want to explode. They will learn something though, it’s one of the strangest times to be alive, but I’m happy that they’ve adapted to the new normal well ahead of me.