Tuesday, 24 July 2007

Inner City Schools

I used to work in an inner city school as a teaching assistant to help a little five year old boy called Liam who needed extra help because he had special needs. His mother was an alcoholic and as a result Liam was brain damaged so it was my job to sit next to him during lessons and help him keep up, though this mainly meant me keeping Liam as still as possible while he took the piss, as well he might. In the end I though the best thing to do was concentrate on pulling him around the playground on a truck and playing football with him, as he supported Hull City, but always letting him win. Although I did manage to get him to write his name in the sand pit. Although he had many problems, Liam was quite canny and in once, in an attempt to ingratiate myself with him while reading a book about shops I said to him "And where do you shop, Liam?" "Grandways""Oh, do you, I shop there quite often, too""Well, I've never seen you there."

His best friend was a lad called Neil, whose favourite film seemed to be 'Nightmare on Elm Street' and drew a fair likeness of Freddy Krueger. I was torn between horror at his viewing material and admiration for the skill and verisimilitude with which he reproduced the lovely figure of Freddy Krueger, talons and all. However, I informed the teachers as was my duty and they brought his Mam in to have a word. Anyway, he seemed quite happy and he and Liam took the piss like nobody's business.

My job was also to help at mealtimes. Hull City Council has a policy of free (healthy) school meals for all schoolchildren and it was my job to get them to eat them, by means of giving them a sticker if they did. This was no mean feat and I scoured the shops for more and more superb stickers with glitter, 3D shapes, very large stickers, very tiny stickers, all in a difficult attempt to get the kids to eat their healthy meals as they looked longingly on at their peers with the packed lunches, some of which contained three chocolate bars and a packet of cheesy puffs. I now know how to talk up a sticker and bribe with a sticker.

A lot of the kids had a lot of problems. For instance, I once overheard two little girls taking about their dads "Mine's in prison" "Mine's in the cemetery", but it was a very lively place and the teachers were superb. When they had a themed day like World Books Day everyone in the school go dressed up, even the caretaker. A little girl called Chanel one asked me "How many sisters have you got?" "One, why how many have you got?""Six" but her Grandma was still to be seen as a volunteer reader helping the kids read outside the classroom for free.

My own two kids are the alumni of an inner city nursery school, though a different one. The they imbibed a sense of fun, a fighting spirit and a rather fetching Hull accent. One of the few places at any rate where at the school gates you would see the rather imposing figure of a fellow Mum with a large number of small (happy)children in and around a buggy, fag in vermilion gob, sporting a leopard skin fur coat and a towering peroxide beehive.


Frances said...

I've never yet understood the odd thing in the UK that there is free education and people still want to pay - kids need to mix with everyone from their own age group, even if it does mean someone has to sit next to the strange ones.

Eleanor said...

I've always found that the strange ones are always better, haven't you?