The Eaton Diary of London    2001  

'School Y'

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Tuesday 20 March.          The continuation of my teaching career in London.


The day after the Whitechapel experience, I was feeling like I could cope with anything, so I ventured to 'School Y' High School, in a suburb called Chalk Farm for an 11am interview re a longer term Music Teaching appointment. Chalk Farm is on the northern side of Central London. Their Head of Music has recently had surgery for cancer and they need someone urgently to fill in while he recuperates. 

I had to wait for quite a while due to a mix up with my appointment time, so I had time to survey the scene from the heart of the school - the front office. The first thing that hit me was the 'Welcome' sign, written boldly in 5 different languages. Such cultural diversity was something I wasn't used to, but which I later learnt to greatly appreciate and enjoy.

The office staff were particularly friendly and helpful. I was intrigued by the constant stream of students who approached the front desk and simply tore off a section from a roll of toilet paper provided, and then out they'd go. At first I thought that maybe there'd been problems with students abusing the supplies in the toilets and so any who had a need, came to the front office to get sufficient for their moment of need. But I heard several of them ask for 'some tissues' so I suspect it was the most economical way of dispensing tissues for runny noses. I could see at the outset that this was an economically challenged school and student body.

After several messengers, and paging announcements, the Deputy was eventually located and he came to take me on a tour for the school. As we proceeded outside from the front office, he said with a mocking sense of pride, “That's our tree, and that's our piece of grass,” pointing to the only miniscule bits of green on the school property. His first description of the 1000 strong student body was, “They're a lively bunch” and he referred several times to their tendency towards “familiarity”, by which I felt he meant that they are overly prone to answering back and they show little respect for their elders or authority.

He described the buildings as “Victorian.” They have had plans approved and the funding allocated for a total rebuild of the whole school, maybe starting 2002 or 2003, so that inhibits any redevelopment projects for now, so everyone just puts up with very substandard facilities.

He showed me the two rooms used for music tuition, one houses the boiler for the school's heating system, so that's nice and cozy, and the other is upstairs in a separate 3 story block.

I offered to teach 2 trial days, Wednesday: Yr 9 classes for compulsory music appreciation lessons. (- “a baptism of fire” was their reaction, “that's the hormone year!”)  And Thursday: Some more congenial Yr 7 and Yr 8 classes, and if all went well, I could then commit for 4 days a week through to the end of the Summer Term (July) when they hoped their Head of Music would be able to return. It seemed like a challenge, but I wanted to be able to help these kids.


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