I have of late taken to the postprandial constitutional. As currently I tap away on my phone I am strolling leisurely through a park whilst also listening to an awful crescendo of techno trance.
[Pauses to change track.]
[Bumps into man.]
[Listens to man’s Spanish tirade with a patient contrition.]
Where was I? Ah, yes, I’m sashaying across a busy road to the aural honey of none other than Todd Rundgren (he’s like a male Carole King).
[Has foot run over by cyclist… By cyclist with child on handlebar.]
Excuse me a moment. [Grits teeth, with eyes watering. Hot moment of sheer pain subsides.]
It is during these now regular constitionals that I have begun to reflect on the minutae of my teaching oeuvre. What better time, as I flâneur about the streets of my adoptive city (my scuzzily startling, vertiginously vibrant and downtroddenly downright dazzling city – mi nuevo corazon) – what better time to think?
[Is shat upon by a hummingbird. Blessedly small stool, like a mouse pellet.]
Bloody Todd Rundgren! [Scrapes shoulder with palm leaf and changes track.] That’s better! There’s something about listening to the first lines sung by Stuart Murdoch of Belle & Sebastian. It’s not unlike sliding underwater in a hot bath.
[Is subjected to the advances of a small dog. Almost loses a flip-flop.]
What is it about teaching that we are encouraged to reflect so mercilessly? Am I good enough? How can I improve? Where can be found that next golden increment of effectiveness (tell me that, Archie Cochrane)? Is it that the stakes are so high that I can’t afford not to be always on the lookout for the next…
[Walks into bin.]
Where was I? Ah, yes: is my reflection true? Am I, in striving to be a better teacher, actually pouring so much beauty into my reflection that I have become a dessicated husk? Have I done a Reverse Dorian Gray?
[Suddenly finds oneself engaged in an excessively polite stand-off with a motorist wanting to give way to me so that I can happily walk across the remaining three lanes of traffic that are less likely to be equally polite in their interactions with me.]
I can’t remember my lessons this morning, so hot and fizzing remains my head with all of the day’s interactions. I remember talking and listening and I remember making movements. All of them seemed appropriate.
I told a child off for not wearing a sun hat. I gave another permission to go to the toilet. I have a suspicion that some of my students encountered a fruitful distinction between direct and reported speech today. I think that I had something to do with that. Admonishment, relief and minor revelation: the stuff of my teaching life.
[Steps into oily curbside puddle. In flip-flop.]
I have found respite in another park. There are pre-schoolers playing on the swings opposite and I can hear a football being bounced along the sidewalk. A mongrel spaniel is sniffing around me and taking great interest in my oily flip-flop. The sun has left this part of Earth and the wind, the blesséd wind is rising to clear my head.
I patted a very small child on the head today. Patronisingly perhaps, but I couldn’t resist it: children are such sources of light and deserve to know that they are appreciated.
That’s what happens when you look where you are going. You see things. And you react naturally.
[Feels rush of liquid warmth spread across oily, flip-flopped foot and gazes lovingly into the eyes of a spaniel.]