Sunday, April 3, 2016

Classroom Stories One

As my career draws to a close in just over a month it seems natural to recall some of the events and people that have shaped my life along the way as I have learned how to teach, a journey that is never finished or complete.

I started my professional career as a fourth grade teacher at Sefton Infant and Junior Schools in Bristol, England. As you can see it's still there. Hopefully it will remain under the watchful eye of the Local Education Authority and not become one of the Conservative government's dreaded Academies . It's hard to believe that they would even consider such a drastic, mandatory change in the way education is managed.

Anyway, I digress. The first two stories I can recall have to do with a particular student and a particular event. The student, Hugo Tubbs, (yes, I will always remember his name although the spelling might be incorrect) was in one of my fourth grade classes, perhaps the last one before I emigrated. I think he had 6 or 7 older sister which might account for him being such a memorable character. The first reason I recall him so well is that he had memorized up to his 23 x 12 times tables. He could either rattle them off or tell you what individual facts were. But, it was on a school camping trip that Hugo really excelled himself. We were camping at a permanent campsite near Southampton on the south coast. The tents had wooden floors and were arranged in rows. On the first night I was assigned to check on the 60 or so 4th graders in their tents of 6. When I came to Hugo's tent I opened the door flap, stepped in and was instantly bathed in the brightest light imaginable. I had been going to use my flashlight to check if all were asleep but I clearly didn't need to. Hugo had set up a switch on the floor wired to a car headlamp hooked up to a car battery next to his sleeping bag. By this time just about everyone in the campsite was awake  and I asked Hugo what it was. It was, he said, a warning light in case someone tried to enter their tent.We all wondered why his suitcase had been so heavy.

The event occurred on the same field trip when another school sharing the camp site took their students, also fourth graders, to the Isle of Wight for the day; a five or so  mile ferry trip off the coast in the English Channel. At the end of the day the students, tired and exhausted, boarded the ferry for the short trip back to the mainland. Five minutes into the trip one of the students told one of the teachers that Tommy was missing. After a quick roll call it was confirmed that Tommy was, indeed, nowhere on the ferry. There were, of course, no cell phones, or quick ways of communicating with Tommy wherever he was. As the teachers huddled to form a plan, which included asking the ferry captain to return to the Isle, one of the students interrupted to say that Tommy was standing on the bridge of a Royal Navy motor torpedo boat that was racing past the ferry at around 30 knots. A loud cheer went up from all on the ferry. Tommy was at the quay with his Royal Navy escort waiting when the ferry docked.

We shared several drinks with the teachers from Tommy's school that evening.   

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