You are marvelling at the children’s capacity for prolonged enjoyment of ‘Heads Down; Thumbs Up’ when the unthinkable happens: the bell rings.
A numbness settles over you: a tingling, prickling sensation. You are either having a stroke, being attacked by thousands of irate Lilliputians with tiny spears or it is the End of Days: the end of the school year.
In a daze, you say your muted goodbyes, patting children on their backs, giving the ones with short spikey hairstyles a static-generating ruffle. You pause to enjoy meaningful eye contact with the one child that really knows: both of you knowing that she is already more intelligent than you will ever be.
The children are out of the door. You listlessly follow them to the playground to watch them get picked up by grannies, uncles, aunties, mothers, surly elder siblings – even a handful of fathers.
One of the fathers strides up to you and bollocks you for keeping his daughter in at break time earlier in the week. You explain that she hadn’t finished her work. He bollocks you a bit more. You take it.
You are back in your classroom. The laptop goes back into the rucksack. You’ve been given a Best Teacher mug by your most unruly pupil. Another student, ‘The Runner’ has bought you a box of broken biscuits from the Broken Biscuit Shop. The intelligent girl has bought you nothing. But you don’t mind. You’re not really able to mind since much of your mind currently resides outside (above and to the right) of your body.
Through the hall, past the Growth Mindset display, through the reading area, past the bean bags where you got stuck once, after celebrating the aftermath of an OFSTED with rather too much vigorous liquidity. You remember having to shell out for those Geronimo Stiltons you’d sicked on.
Outside, you fall into step with a ragtag of fellow teachers crossing the carpark. You imagine their wheelie suitcases, boxes and tartan sholleys moving under their own volition, like clapped out robots hobbling back into a Jawa transporter.
A few words are exchanged amongst the band as people get into their cars. Fragments, jokes, plans and reminiscences: delivered with the bewildered bravado of those who find themselves having inexplicably escaped the gallows.
‘I will go home,’ you think, sat, keys poised before the ignition.
‘And, for a time, I won’t come back.’