Day ONE. Josie, the eight year old, is up early. She bounces into our room, wakes me, watches me sit up bleary-eyed, confused, sweary and passing wind and announces that she thinks ‘you’re going to be the best teacher ever!’ She then bounces off, calling out ‘can I wear school uniform!?’
Isobel is six. She is up much later. She is my kindred spirit. Mornings are for morning people, not people like us. Due to there being a war on and the rest of the population seemingly thinking they need to have cupboards stocked like they are running a cash-and-carry, breakfast for Isobel is a defrosted hot dog roll with marmite. It hasn’t quite defrosted. It does nothing to improve her mood.
Josie is bouncing up and down in front of a panic purchase that I completed the moment that dog from the Churchill adverts announced the schools were to close – a flipchart. Complete with a new pack of pens. I’m not sure there’s anything better than a new pack of pens. I tell my wife this. The look she gives me tells me that she knows she won the lottery when it comes to husbands.
Then she goes to work. This leaves just me, two children and silence. I have never felt so intimidated.
I have no idea what to do with the flipchart so I write ‘MR DADDY’ and tell the girls that I am their new teacher. I wait for the laughter. There is no laughter. Josie’s enthusiasm for me as the best teacher ever is already visibly ebbing away with every passing moment and Isobel is watching her breakfast; despite the first lesson from me being that ‘a watched roll never defrosts.’ Tough crowd.
9am sharp and we start work. Teacher’s have provided work books with exercises. Maths is first. The teacher has also provided a contact phone number should we need any assistance with the work set.
‘They’re primary school kids!’ I scoff and fling the printed phone number into the bin.
Josie’s first question is for her to cross out the Dienes that are not needed to represent the number 162.
I do not know what a Diene is. Nor do I know how a number is ‘represented’ in this context. My panic is audible in the form of a whimper and then one of those high-pitched farts like someone’s loosened a tight grip on the neck of a balloon.
9:01am and already all sense of poise is lost as I am scrabbling in a bin in front of two bemused/disgusted children, only to emerge holding a piece of paper up to the sunlight to try and make out the digits of the teacher’s mobile number that has now been almost entirely consumed by tea stains. I am her fourth call. The girls are still looking for where the balloon went.
One question done, the next one would have made just as much sense to me if it were communicated by banging a wok… it reads: Kangaroos have two legs and zebras have four legs. A zoo keeper counts 22 legs altogether. How many kangaroos and zebras could there be?
What sort of a c##t just counts the f##king legs!?
‘Pardon daddy?’ Said the youngest.
We move on to a question that is basically 22 minus 12. The answer is ten. I know this. My confidence is building. I know an answer! Josie is upset. She is upset because she thought it was 11. That’s okay, I say, it’s okay to be wrong that is how we learn. ‘But it is 11,’ she insists. Now she is angry. I think she is angry at me, like normally her teachers are better, like normally they know what a Diene is, they don’t rummage through a bin for the answers to simple questions while emitting wind sounds and they know that 22 minus 12 equals 11. I use a calculator. I don’t need to, I know what 22 minus twelve is but this makes Josie angrier. She sees me checking my own sanity on the calculator and says, ‘well if you’re not sure, how are we supposed to be?’ She then storms off. I don’t know how to feel, just that it’s my fault.
The school day stumbles to an end with English where I am nearly in fist fight with a six year old about why Pyjamas are not spelt like Iguana and read is the same as read but different to red and also to reed... This is the ninth time I have said it just is, okay! But the first time while holding a small serrated knife. I am feeling threatened and backed into a corner.
My wife returns home from work and I find it hard to adapt. She tidies up her own shoes so I give her a sticker.
Day ONE done... Feels like week ONE...