Thursday, 29 January 2015

Whilst in the midst of the tempest...

My office was as dark as a cave, the light above me blocked by the conditions.  All around us, the wind hurled and threw a thousand upturned litter bins our way.  I garbed myself in a futile attempt to block out the conditions, and headed for the playground.

All doors were open; all barriers removed; my simple task was to usher people in safe and warm, complete in the knowledge that they were not late, but their endeavours to reach us through the storm were welcomed, and we were thankful.

I looked up at the trees, usually proud and straight sentinels above our playground, suddenly struggling in vain to remain upright.  The plants and the bins clung to each other in an attempt to stay safe in a tumultuous ocean of gales.   The moon was a ghostly galleon... no wait, that's the Highwayman. The sky turned a duller and duller black, and the lights within looked like welcoming beacons.    Even the playpod looked as if it were apologetically clinging to its moorings.

And then, the rain began.  Small rivers, at first, the torrent that was to follow sending out its vanguard of smaller arsenals as frontriders.  Then the storm swelled.  Then the rain truly began.  The umbrella in my hand felt as much use as a teapot made of chocolate; to use it would be like using a teaspoon to defend yourself against an angry dragon.

Yet I did not feel despondent or upset.  Soggy, yes, as my trousers turned a deeper shade and my socks retreated to warmer climes.  No, I felt fine actually.  Three things were almost exclusively responsible for my bright humours in dark times.

Firstly, not a single child - or for that matter, adult or preschool age sibling - ignored me as they came running in, wellies permitting.  Every single one said a cheery (albeit breakneck paced) "morning", or a "thank you" or even a "aaarrrggghhh I'm soaked mind!".  One was good enough to point out that my glasses were wet.  Bless them.  I really had not noticed.

The adults were all good-natured and encouraging, despite the fact that they had the return journey to look forward to.   There were plenty of camaraderie-laden "Alright?"s and "How's it going?"s and more than one encouragement for me to join the kids indoors.

A school community sharing an experience of adversity, however it is presented, often shows the strength of said community, and isn't it great?

Secondly, in among the PE kits and book bags there were some of the most bizarre objects.  Yet they went on to demonstrate that, whatever the weather, our children are committed to their new topics and their learning.  Several of the older girls were carrying additions to their amazing displays about their topic of China (Why is it always made in China? for those of you who want the topic question).  Another child was carrying in a pile of their grandad's vinyl, which, as you can imagine, got me very excited.  Why?  For key stage 1's topic on "Why were the 1960s called swinging?".

Then, whilst in the midst of the tempest, one girl tried to show me the homework she had done of her own choice not for the current topic (Where did Stonehenge come from?) but for the topic they will be starting next week (How Many Bristols are there around the World?).

Our children know that, despite the conditions being against us, learning will continue.

The third thing was nothing to do with curriculum or community or even the weather.  It was something so simple it was unbelievable, and deeply touching.  There I stood, drenched, dithering and desperate to return to the sanctuary of my desk and my coffee, when a year 6 boy walked past me, parka hood worn high and face almost invisible.  As he reached me, out shot his hand in front of me.  In that hand: a cream egg.

I cannot tell you how quickly the clouds receded and the sun shone, all metaphorically of course.  As far as I was concerned, I could have been brandishing said teaspoon in front of an utterly irate dragon at that moment and nothing would really have mattered.  The cream egg went on to sit on the corner of my desk, winking at me throughout that morning's governor meetings, and the rain outside the window (which abated, bringing freezing wind in its place) could do nothing to dampen my spirits, or my almost dry trousers.

When all is cold and bleak on the outside, our children and our community make everything on the inside feel that little bit more warm and special.  May 2015 continue in a similar vein of friendship, and not in weather.

And yes, as soon as I could politely herd out the governors, the cream egg went down in one.  Thank you Big Man.

From in front of the radiator, that is all.