I would hereby like to apologise to anyone who came within orbit during the final countdown to my author visit at No. 1 daughter’s school. The night before D-Day I went to bed looking like a stewardess about to ask, “Does anybody know how to fly a plane?”
But bright was the morn and stoic my heart as, shunning the last meal and blindfold, I strode forth to meet my fate and the teacher who had talked me into it in the first place – she wasn’t there. She had called in sick. Which, incidentally, was what I was considering doing 12 hrs earlier.
Flying solo then, myself and the better half, who was acting as prop man, were ushered into the first class, Years 1 and 2 – the daughter’s. I started by reading Dragon’s Dinner, getting the kids to join in – loudly. Then I asked whether they’d like to do some colouring in of pictures of the dragon that we’d brought along – “Yes”, they cried – “Oh?” said their teacher, “Well we were planning to do some writing.” – whoops… clang.
“No, no, that’ll be fine,” she continued.
After the colouring there was time for a couple more dragon stories before it was off to the next class. I think it had gone well. The daughter clung, limpet like, to my leg as I tried to leave peppering my knee with kisses and the teacher ‘mentioned’ that she also taught at another school…..
Next up were the tiny tots, Reception – slightly freaked out by the lack of their ‘called in sick’ teacher, they fixed their saucer eyes, Midwich like, onto my every move as I gingerly picked my way through the ranks. They soon loosened up and we were having a ball – only slightly interrupted by the surprise appearance of the local newspaper to get a photo of the event – another bone I shall be picking with ‘sick note’. You could have warned me darling… Had I known, I would have put on full make up, which, for photo purposes, involves me trowelling the slap onto the table and then rolling my face in it finger print style - now that’s what I call full coverage.
The tots I could cope with, I have a couple of my own… but next up was Years 3 and 4…. Gulp. Too cool for picture books, too young for a lecture on how one comes about. Not a bit of it. They were surprisingly attentive, made up some rather good rhymes, with a little prompting to get them going, and asked lots of pertinent questions. I was disappointed when the time was up as there was so much more I wanted to cover.
Slightly dissatisfied, I spent the lunch break watching the daughter and posse nearly garrotte each other with skipping ropes as footballs thumped merrily on the reinforced windows. All the time wondering how I could improve for the upcoming top two years class and thus, finally, unclench.
Well, I had thought that these guys would be the toughest crowd, wrong again. Their rhyming and storyboarding was wonderful, funny and inventive - especially from the girls – no surprises there. But what was surprising was one particular boy. The kind of kid you just know would be able to describe, from memory, the view out of the classroom window he’s stared at it so much. We went from “I can’t think of anything” and “I can’t draw” and “I can’t rhyme” to “What about that?” and “Could you do this?” and, finally, “I’ve done this”. His might not have been the best but, by eck, I will remember his grin once he’d done it. It near brought a tear to my eye; mind you, it could have been the relief.
At the end of the allotted time I asked if I should go, “Stay as long as you want.” said the teacher – you betcha!
Suitably buzzing, I bowed out just before afternoon break and hung in the playground waiting for No. 1 to come out – she didn’t. I found her eventually still in her classroom, where she and a couple of the others had given up break time to finish their colouring in, (she can be anal like that, I blame the parents). The finished pictures were being stuck into their writing books to go alongside their own little story about the dragon. Her teacher commented, “They’ve all been at it, it’s the most I’ve ever seen them write.”
Really ….I don’t know what you were all so nervous and worried about …I always knew it would be fine.
Music swells… Plucky stewardess lands 747… Credits roll.