Finding a small gym full of hyper restless children at 8am on Monday morning, after an energetic weekend of Spritz, pizza, dancing and ohsomuch Spritz, I of course did what any responsible teacher would do. I ran straight to the staff room and hid.
Baby-sitting I had done. Public speaking I had done. Assistant teaching I had done. But never had I taken sole responsibility for a whole class of fifteen or so tiny children. As a kid, I had never understood that, sometimes, the teacher was dreading the lesson ten times more than I was.
So I settled in by finding the vending machines on site and meeting the one-step-from-insane care-taker, who introduced himself as Wolf and then howled at the ceiling (I located all nearby exits during a nervous laugh). I small-talked with the fellow teachers and was relieved to find them a little nervous too. And then it was time to round up the wild animals downstairs. Oh God.
All smiles and confidence, I called my class 2s into an ordered little line (just keep smiling, they won’t smell your fear…) None of them had claws or fangs. They weren’t biting each other (or me) or running round me in smaller and smaller circles. They were positively human, even civilised. They were smiling back. And waving! I was so relieved I nearly cried (which would have been a terrible start…) I led the pack upstairs to the classroom, eagle-eyed for runaways every step towards the first floor, but they all followed their amateur teacher obediently.
The pressure was on. My host brother was in this class, the little boy I was living with for the next two weeks – I couldn’t afford to make a mess of it and live in shame for a fortnight. Oh the pressure. Luckily I had a secret weapon. A weapon no child could ever defeat or resist. And to my rescue came – every child’s best friend, the hero of every playground, the one, the only – The Ball. And suddenly the kids were SO very willing to speak English. Let’s just say that by the end of the lesson, they all knew what ‘ball’ meant. And they could introduce themselves, tell me they were nine, and that they lived in Turin. I was so proud, and this was only the first half an hour of the day. I had survived and so had they. It felt amazing.
And I survived the next lesson and the next until it was time for a well-earned Spritz or 2 (or perhaps 3) at the local bar. Which is when I realised I had left my phone at the school. Which is when I ran back and found it had been stolen. Which is when I returned to the bar and drank some more Spritz – it’s always the disaster you don’t expect that bites you where it hurts. Still, a bit of alcohol and a gorgeous stroll home in the sunshine and I was feeling fine. Phoneless is kinda freeing anyway, right?
So in short – a day later and I was alive, so were the children, and all that was lost was a phone. That’s what I call a success.