Posted by: Mr E | 25 July 2008

Half the size, twice the kick

I just thought it would be a good time to take my hat off to all the primary school teachers out there. For a long time I’ve thought that secondary education is where the ‘real’ teaching is at, and that junior schools were just glorified daycare centres. However, all that changed a few weeks back after my school hosted a Year 5 day, for the hordes of 9 and 10-year-olds in our catchment area to come and run riot.

As a diligent (read: kamikaze) student, I volunteered to help out. I was supposed to be placed with a teacher for the day, and though she was very nice she thought it important to get her Year 10 reports done. As a result I found myself about to be responsible for 24 loud, screaming, high-maintenance urchins. First came nausea, then excitement, and then relief when I found out they weren’t all that bad!

However they did require a lot of attention. Upon setting a relatively easy form-filling task, I asked “Who needs any help?”. Clearly I asked it in a far too nice tone of voice, and nearly every hand in the group went up! I was then subjected to question after question that really didn’t matter:

“Can we just put our initials?”
“I don’t know how to spell my school!” (despite it being on their jumper)
“When is lunch?”
“Why aren’t we doing Food Technolology?!”

After getting them through those hoops, I took them to our ICT suite for their first lesson which was quite wonderfully crafted. Their first task was to ‘Name the Animal’. While they all seemed fine with the pig and the dog, things got a little more complicated when we came to the “gisafre” (also known as the giraffe). I also couldn’t help but suffer from an awful case of the giggles when the kids labeled a picture of Will Smith… “Will Smith”. Logical at least, but not really in keeping with the task! Things only got better when they got to create their own animals, and we were treated horrible tales of the deadly Sponk and it’s penetrating venom. Despite my best efforts to quickly move on, the little terrors decided it was one of their favourites and we kept coming back to it (pun unintended).

They really did seem to enjoy the day though, with particular highlights being P.E. and Design & Technology. Surprisingly there was a collective dislike for science, despite the lesson actually being quite fun. I remember enjoying the exact same lesson when I came to the school as a fresh-faced Year 5, and I do wonder how science has managed to fall out of favour so drastically. Nevertheless, they’ll have to get used to it with 5 years of bunson burners and copper sulphate ahead of them.

The day didn’t go without its hitches though, with particular struggles including having to convince the boys that drama wasn’t “gay” and that all the other boys weren’t, in fact, “homos” for taking part (have they been watching Summer Heights High?!). Also worrying was one young man who threatened to stab his friend for taking his ball. I took this very seriously and had words with him, and it turns out he didn’t even understand the implications of what he had said. It really shocked me, and it’s disappointing to think not even these kids can go untainted by the awfulness of our knife-crime epidemic. On reflection, maybe the picture I’ve chosen to accompany this post isn’t the most appropriate!

When I’d finished serving my sentence I was more tired than I expected, and that’s when it hit me: it’s just bloody hard work. Primary school teachers of the world: I salute you!



  1. I’m shocked to hear of the dislike for science!

    I remember that for my year seven (age 12) high school visit, back in 2001, science was the BEST lesson! There was fire, and test tubes, and acid, and chemical reactions! Part of the lesson was demonstrated, but we all got to take part in some of the less dangerous experiments. When we next had our next primary school science lesson, we were disappointed to learn we had to wait till next year to do ‘proper science’, and had to stick to our basic, and extremely safe, classes.

  2. So are you going to go into primary or secondary teaching?

  3. evad, I must say I’m surprised too! I sometimes wonder if kids are being trained in the art of science-hating. Not that I can say much myself, I decided against carrying on any of the sciences to A-Level.

    Snuffy, it will most definitely be secondary. Unless of course there’s a sudden demand for economics in primary schools!

  4. While I love little kids to bits, they can be exceptionally cute, I’m not keen on the idea of teaching them. Probably fun for a while, but I couldn’t handle it for a long time.

    People always seem surprised when they hear I’ve chosen secondary, but I don’t see the appeal of primary teaching myself.

  5. Hello,
    I just wanted to speak with your regarding the topic of head lice and some work currently being carried out by Full Marks. If you would like to discuss this please just drop me an email.

    Many Thanks,

  6. Really – Give me a class of Year 5’s any day. At least when they swear at you they don’t realise what the word they are saying actually means, they just think it’s rude. When a secondary kid does it there’s a 9/10 chance they know what it means and actually mean it!!!

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