The Zoo Keeper.

My job title may say teacher, but there is a wide variety of other titles that could go along with it… 

For example, some days you can feel less like a teacher and more like an actual zoo keeper. You could quite easily look around my classroom, on a far from Mary Poppins afternoon, to find many examples of animalistic behaviour you would normally expect to see at the zoo and not in a primary school classroom. 

You have the otters who have to sit near each other, even when you haven’t allowed them to sit with friends. A longing desire to hold hands as they work, or link arms, causing handwriting to look scrawling and unkempt. It breaks my heart to open books after school and find handwriting dancing around the page because they needed to hold hands in order to concentrate properly. 

The meerkats are standing tall to observe other people’s business. What are they doing on that table? Why do they have different work to me? He’s swinging on his chair, somebody should tell him before he falls back and hurts himself. She’s not sharing the coloured pencils on that table. I must go and tell the teacher. Where is the teacher standing/sitting? Will she/he see me if I sneak out to the toilet without permission? My partner has a headache so I’m going to go and tell the adult for her. He’s been standing at the sink with his water bottle for too long. The meerkats need to stop being so blooming nosey and just get on with their work.

The ostriches have their heads so far in the sand, because they’d rather be anywhere else but in school. Some days I completely understand how they feel and I’d rather join them. But burying your head in the sand doesn’t make progress happen in the classroom. Nor does it pay the bills, unfortunately. (When did I become such a boring adult?) 

The cheeky monkeys are chattering away, talking about what happened at playtime and not the possible answer to the question you recently asked them. They don’t care whether you put a 1 minute timer on the board, they’ve got important things to discuss like how to build something on Minecraft© for this elusive Steve I keep hearing about. So any opportunity you give them to talk, they will try, with every ounce of might in their body, to talk about that, instead of what they think might be different between the two sentences on the board. 

The ‘know it all’ parrots can be heard repeating every single word that you say, yet completely disregarding them at the same time. They like the sound of their own voice and not yours. You can almost guarantee that if you say something that sounded even remotely important, they will repeat it to every child in the class like a game of Chinese whispers. Changing it ever so slightly with each new listener, so by the time the last child has heard it, it is not what you had originally said. 

The elephants are spraying water over by the sink. I don’t like to deny children their basic right to be able to drink water during the day, but when they begin emptying their perfectly full water bottles, just to be able to refill them again, a part of me wants to throw the bottle away and pretend it grew legs and wandered off! (They’d probably believe me!) Or even worse, they fill their water bottles too high and when they put the lids on, spill water all over the floor by the sink, causing a slip hazard for any unsuspecting adult. (Now I’m beginning to wonder whether it is all a master plan to bump my TA or me off early!?) The latest bright idea with the water bottles, is to not actually use them as a drinking container from which you can rehydrate yourself when needed, it’s to point the bottle at your friend and squeeze it so that water sprays everywhere. When the adult asks why you are all wet, you can then look at him/her with a blank expression, because you have no recollection of what has just happened, causing both of your school jumpers to be dripping with water!?? 

The gorillas are thundering around, hitting other animals, I mean children, for no apparent reason. Why come to school to learn when there is a punching bag at every table? You could spend your time learning how to add 3 digit numbers together, or you could perfect your right hook! Some children don’t appear to have a functioning brain that considers what might happen if they hit another child, until the punch bag starts to cry and is walking in the direction of the nearest grown up. Then the brain kicks in and they suddenly become psychic, seeing themselves sitting in the detention room during the next lunchtime. 

The tortoises are moving very slowly. Hardly ever finishing a piece of work in a lesson. They either take their time to make it neat and presentable or they take their time in an effort to do as little as possible. Sometimes you can encourage them to try a little bit harder. You find the right incentive that motivates them to get the work done properly or get more done and you feel like you’ve completed a marathon race. Exhausted and elated all at the same time. The next day, you’re back to square one and it’s like watching paint dry all over again! 

The giraffes have their heads so high up in the clouds, the tallest step ladder couldn’t help you to jump up into their eye line, for them to realise that you are standing in front of the classroom trying to teach them how to write an adverbial sentence. They say you should engage with children and get down to their level. Be on their wave length. But what if they’re on a completely different planet?? And space academies haven’t discovered a safe and successful way of landing there yet?? What do you do then? 

The energetic kangaroos are bouncing around the classroom, on their way to find a rubber, or sharpen a pencil, or even find a new glue stick (look out for my post all about glue sticks coming very soon!) The kangaroos have a simple solution to any obstacle in their way, on their journeys to the stationery at the front. They bend as far down as they possibly can, before leaping over it and landing as perfectly as an Olympic gymnast. 

The squirrels are hoarding the rubbers on their table, in an effort to ensure that, heaven forbid, if they should make the smallest of mistakes in their writing, they have an extensive range of rubber shapes and sizes to choose from before they can erase their mistake and continue with their writing. Last year, I even counted how many rubbers were in the classroom and collected them in after every lesson. Eventually, we were spending too much time at lunch, hunting down the missing rubber from a child’s shoe before anybody could leave for lunch. 

The goats are chewing on anything they can get their teeth into. You name it, they are chewing it. The tiniest corner from the page in their book, the end of their pencil, jumper sleeves, pencil rubbers, Blu tak, rulers, finger nails, bogies, hair, collars, felt pen lids, paper clips…nothing is safe. If it isn’t already inside the mouth of a child, chances are it probably has been. (And I wonder why I wash my hands so often.)

The bees are buzzing, frantically as they hum in concentration. Quite often the smartest, and eager to learn, children need to make noise in order to block out the noise of the other children. Usually, this involves humming and making shushing sounds. It can start off as a little lullaby but, if you let it slide, it turns into a raucous racket as it spreads around the room. Sometimes other children join in, just for the hell of it. Usually, you know exactly who it is, but they never do anything else wrong at school, so to embarrass them publicly, inside the zoo classroom, would be awkward. Instead, you just announce “Whoever is humming, would they kindly stop?” And you see the child, who initiated it all, look at you apologetically, over their glasses, in response. 

This is just a few examples of what my class is like. You might think I’m exaggerating with some of these, but if you know/knew my class as well as I do, you’d probably see the same thing. You might even be able to categorise the children in my class into the animals I’ve spoken about. I might as well put a sign on the door that says “Welcome to our zoo, please don’t feed the animals.”

 

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