By Vita Forest
On Wednesday we had school photos. We were called out during my maths lesson and marched up to the top grass under the trees. We were arranged in three rows with me slotted in at the side and Milly gamely balancing on a high step brandishing her broken arm in front of her. We were adjusted and readjusted – some children just did not want to be that close to certain other children and of course the child who has been known to lash out at others when he gets riled up was placed right in the centre of the group with bodies pressing in on him from all sides…
The camera snapped away and before anyone came to any harm, it was over.
Then we lined up again to have individual photos. On the way we checked our hair and our shirts and our collars, and tried to get our fringes to behave, and tried to decide whether plaits should be swept forward or behind our shoulders, and whether glasses should be left on if they catch the light, and whether the boys shirts should really be tucked in when they really look so much better tucked out…
I led the class in its snaking line down past the play equipment and up the ramp into the hall. I sat on a stool with my kids looking on and smiled at the camera and was asked to repeat ‘Cocktails!’ and ‘Holidays’ and ‘Weekend!’ (that is what teachers like apparently). When I was done, I went out of the hall and found some shade and waited for my line of kids to feed into the production line for their photo and get popped out the other side.
A boy or two ambled up and sat down to wait and then a rather cranky looking girl.
‘What’s up T?’ I asked.
‘She made me say “Princess’” she scowled. ‘Then “Cheeky Monkeys” but “Princess!” Alan did you have to say “Princess”?’
Apparently not. Apparently the boys got to say “Elephant’s Undies” and other such manly things.
The survey continued as the rest of the class trickled out, there were no “Princesses” among the boys, only the girls were asked to say that word. My sassy girls of eight and nine continued to discuss the outrage of being asked to say “Princess” – I mean, As IF!
We went back to the classroom and continued on with the presentation of their free choice speeches. The best speakers will go on to the next round and may eventually represent the school at an inter-school competition. There were some excellent speeches from some of the little characters in my class. Some of the topics chosen included – ‘why our school should not get a pool’ (the rest of the class took some convincing), ‘Termites and how great they are’ (after this girl’s garage collapsed after, you guessed it, termites destroyed it), and my personal favourite – ‘why this public speaking competition is ‘the worst’’. Stacey, who wrote and presented this gem ended it by saying, ‘But Ms F, I really would like to get through to the next round!’ (and she did. She’ll get a merit award for it next week too).
Later that day we were hunted down in the computer room.
‘Come quick Ms F! We want you to hear the band!’ (The band for our performance group, the band who are rehearsing together for the third time). Again we left our tasks, again 28 children lined up in two rather wonky lines and again we left the great indoors and wove around buildings and play equipment and garden beds and bins, lured by the fabulous music that wafted through the empty playground beckoning us on like the Pied Piper. My class sang and even danced as they recognised the song and we moved ever closer to the source of the music. The band was arranged outside of the hall under the trees (they couldn’t be inside today – it was School Photo Day) and when we arrived, they began again, with my pal, the fabulous band teacher, conducting them with gusto. It was peaceful under the trees, the bass player lounging against a wall, the saxophonists blowing gamely into their instruments. The tune was there and the tempo, it was an exhilarating start! We all applauded and I told them how thrilled I was. And then we stood up again and lined up again and walked back to the computer room for a very short lesson…
And later that afternoon we were outside again with our lovely art teacher (because she couldn’t be in the hall because it was School Photo Day – very tolerant, flexible people are teachers) and the kids were painting trees and lying on the grass and talking about mixing colours and the shapes in the bark and how one tree looked like a person or maybe a peace sign and some kids painted the trees red with yellow leaves even though they are brown with green leaves and I just thought, despite how tired I felt, that this was, after all, a good day.