Pinky's Book Link

Saturday, May 30, 2020

The Sex Talk

A bitter, ominous wind whistled through the port racks as my class of eight-year-olds huddled on the carpet inside the classroom. 

There’s no such thing as social distancing when you’re eight and you can’t walk past another eight-year-old without squeezing them in a head lock or inflicting a Chinese burn.

I wasn’t huddling with them. I was perched on a small chair beside a whiteboard where I’d scrawled the word SACRED in bright crimson marker. 

“Look at this word,” I instructed the raggedy gang. “This word here is a very, very, EXTREMELY, very important word.”

I took a deep breath. I was about to give a lesson on sex.

Having just limped in from an arduous playground duty when a Year One girl had jammed her knee between the top rungs of the monkey bars and screamed like a banshee nonstop until I'd clumsily rescued her, I had been looking forward to a bit of a sit down.

Unfortunately, a group of my girls had barrelled up to me outside the classroom with extreme indignation (along with Nutella and jam donut) smeared all over their faces before I could get in the door. 

“Mrs Poinker! Mrs Poinker! Alphonzo said he was my boyfriend and he loves me and he kept on trying to sit with me at lunch,” squealed the first girl, her eyes sparkling with a Gloria Allred level of outrage.

“He said the same thing to me too!” said another. “He says we’re all his girlfriends and he loves us all.”

The girls shrieked en masse, then shuddered in passionate disgust.

The ME TOO scandal sprang to mind.

I couldn’t ignore this. It wasn’t as if Alphonzo was an up and coming Harvey Weinstein or anything, but even so, when a girl says, no, you can’t sit beside her with your stinky lunchbox and squashed banana*, well, no means no.

So here we were. Me delivering a sex talk to the class of eight-year-olds and wishing I was at home binge watching Escape to the Country and doing my calming crosswords. 

“See this word,” I gestured to the whiteboard where I’d emblazoned the word, SACRED across its shiny surface.

Forty-eight saucer-like eyes stared at me, frowned at the board, then turned their bulging eyes back to me. I had the floor, I had to make this good. 

“This is how we must see ourselves,” I smiled in my grandmotherly/Mother Teresa manner. “This is how we must see our bodies. This word here, (I rapped a metal ruler sharply on the word) says everything about us as human beings. This is what all of us are.”

I tried not to make eye contact with Alphonzo as I waffled on throughout my long-winded, raving monologue. 

Poor Alphonzo hadn’t really done anything wrong and I was wary not to single him out because I am a discriminating educator and because his mother might come in and get up me.

“It’s fine for girls and boys to be friends and nobody should get teased for that,” I blathered. “But you are too young to have girlfriends and boyfriends. There’s plenty of time for that when you’re teenagers.”

The high school teachers can deal with all that shite, I thought. They think they’re better than us with their trigonometry, Bunsen burners and clean clothes, so let them do the hard yards with the awkward delicacies of gender issues. 

I took a deep shuddering breath before delivering my big sex talk finale. It goes without saying I mentally patted myself on the back for my undeniably insightful, worldly-wise, diplomatic teaching style. 

I should start a podcast on how to talk to primary school children about sex, I thought. I'm a bloody expert.
“I hope, from now on, (weeny peek at Alphonzo) we are all going to respect each other and remember this word.” I tapped the whiteboard with the ruler. 

“So… altogether now, Our bodies are...?” I demanded a response, grinning wildly in encouragement.

There was a second’s pause, nervous glances were exchanged and someone sniffed.

“Our bodies are SCARED!” twenty-five voices chorused triumphantly.

K. Maybe no podcast. Maybe teach them to read.

*not a euphemism.

Saturday, May 9, 2020

Teaching in the Time of Covid.

Week 3 of online/in class teaching is over and boy, have I learned some new stuff. Technology, never my strongest point, has taken centre stage in my planning. It has been revolutionary on a personal level as well. Just before the lockdown, I bought a Fitbit. Normally, I hate everything I buy but I am in love with my Fitbit.

Every morning, Scotto asks me how I slept. “Hang on!” I say as I reach over and check my Fitbit sleep results.

“Fair,” I answer. Or sometimes, “Poor, but thanks for asking,”.

Before purchasing my Fitbit, I thought I slept exceptionally well but now I often discover that most of the time I’ve only had a ‘Fair’ quality of sleep. Knowing this fact can completely ruin my day. How can I have any energy if I didn’t sleep well, even if I felt like I did?

I also discovered that sometimes my oxygen levels drop down dangerously low in the middle of the night, usually about 2am according to FB. If I die in my sleep it will be about 2am, I suppose. 

Scotto will wake up to a stiff body lying beside him because rigor mortis sets in about 3 to 4 hours after death.

Apparently, it takes 12 to 24 hours for rigor mortis to occur in a chicken. This is a worry because you never know if a chicken is just playing dead or not and you can easily put them in the wheelie bin prematurely (a friend told me that).
Now, I’m addicted to checking how I slept and whether or not I nearly died the previous night.

Every hour, my Fitbit ever so politely reminds me to get up off my bum. When I manage to walk 10 000 steps in a day it sends a buzzing vibration through my arm. Sparkling banners parade across the screen and I get a little dopamine rush. Being an attention seeking person, this display of appreciation gives me the people-pleasing acknowledgement I so crave.

Maintaining non-stop walking throughout the day has changed my teaching style. 

Instead of sitting at my desk doing work while the students are completing tasks, I goosestep around the classroom like a Gestapo officer, peering over their slight shoulders, pointing out spelling errors (in a German accent of course), shushing the chatters and obsessively checking my Fitbit for step counts.

On playground duty, I circle the swings repetitively as I eat my apple.

Phineas sauntered up to me on Friday as I passed by the monkey bars.

“Can I join you on your walk, Mrs Poinker?” he asked politely.

“Certainly, Phineas,” I replied, feeling slightly uneasy that he might be about to tell me off for something.

That morning, Phineas had scolded me for licking my fingertip whilst handing out a sheaf of A4 papers. He’s like the Corona Virus policeman in our classroom. Maybe he was about to blast me for eating with my mouth open.

Phineas is the reason I bought my Fitbit in the first place. He was boasting about his own one day and I developed Fitbit Envy. I know he’s only eight, but I’m very competitive. And even though he’s only eight, I find myself discussing issues with Phineas as if he’s an adult. You know, he told me once that he can see atoms. How cool is that?

“Are you trying to get your steps up Mrs Poinker,” he asked, raising his furry eyebrow at me and nodding shrewdly at my wrist.

“No!” I choked on a bit of apple. “I’m making sure all the children are playing safely of course.”

“So, what did you do on the holidays?” I asked him, trying to change the subject even though the holidays were three weeks ago and were now just a faded memory of my halcyon days in isolation far away from children.

He shrugged and sighed in disgust. “I practised my piano.” He kicked a stick in the dirt to emphasise his hatred for the repulsive instrument.

“That’s nice,” I said.

“Mum nags me all the time but I can already play all my EFFIN C’s,” he added with another violent kick in the dust.

I blinked. He didn’t actually swear but it was still highly inappropriate no matter how much he hated practising the piano.

“Phineas!” I said. “That’s terrible!”

“Why?” his eyes went wide. “I can play the Bs too.”

It clicked. He could play all his Fs and Cs. Thank God. I thought he’d gone all Gordon Ramsay on me.

“Look,” he said holding up his finger. “It’s a mood ring.”

“Wow,” I replied gushingly. “Now I can look at your mood ring and tell if you’re happy or sad.”

Phineas stopped mid step and stared at me with his pitying soulful eyes. “Or you could just look at my face,” he said. “It’s just for fun, Mrs Poinker. It’s not real.”
“Hmmm,” I agreed, feeling ever so slightly that he was talking down to me. “Where’s your Fitbit?” I asked, suddenly noticing his bare wrist.

“Gave it to my brother,” he said. “Don’t need it. I know how far I walk.” He gave me that look again. The ‘do I really have to explain’ look.

Yes, I thought. You might be eight my young man and think you know everything, BUT… you don’t. 

Giving away your Fitbit was a wanton act of carelessness. 

You might know how far you walk, Mr Phineas, but how are you now going to know how well you slept?