Every time she sees another silver laptop, she has a moment, a memory, a snapshot of that day and that laptop.
So that fact of her daughters’ laptop, sliver, decorated with Hello Kitty stickers and abandoned in the middle of the big pine table has pushed her, unwillingly, metaphorically kicking and screaming to a time and place she tries hard to normally push far, far away.
September 1992 and for the 17th year in a row, she is entering another term, another school gate, another bout of education.
But today, she is on her own, it’s very early, just gone 7.30 am, although she can see cars already parked in the staff car park, other people must be even earlier than she is. Just for a second she remembers the circle of girls at her primary school, swearing that teachers never go home and just live in cupboards in the evening, perhaps it actually is true after all.
She hafts the over full rucksack back onto her shoulder, looks down at her completely inoffensive outfit, knee-length black skirt, grey long-sleeved t-shirt, A damping down bra and hair straightened into some sort of conformity. At least her shoes make her smile, yes, low heeled, black, sensible, but with mad cat faces scored into the leather and tiny pink leather kitten tongues decorating the toes .. She has chosen these shoes with great care, has spent several hours trying on and then discarding possibilities. These shoes, she believes, make a statement, yes I look like all the other teachers, but look more carefully, see, I’m cool and with it and hopefully they will not cause any unwanted attention from her new colleagues.
She has been to the school over the holidays for training and to set up her classroom, her first classroom. She has sourced enough teaching materials to provide for lessons well into the next century, planned the first 3 weeks of lessons in minute by minute detail, she is ready.
The first day passed in a whirl of names she instantly forgets, A tour of all the administration of the school, where she finds herself standing and nodding alongside a photocopier so large that it looks as if it would be more comfortable in a science fiction film. She is given passwords and sign ins and keys and more and more pieces of paper, which she clutches to her chest, until, finally, she is allowed to creep back to her classroom where she hides in over whelmed hysteria and all of this without any actual teaching. She tries to dry swallow a paracetamol and vows to bring water tomorrow to help with what she is beginning to feel might be a daily task.
Second day, face to face contact with students and actually, it’s not as bad as it could have been. The school is pleasant, in a pleasant neighbourhood, with pleasant grounds and mostly pleasant, well-behaved students.
By the end of the week, she has mainly stopped getting lost, has worked out what chairs are available to new staff in the teacher’s lounge and has even managed a breezy good morning to her early morning colleagues, although she cannot shake the thought that perhaps after all they do actually live here as she can see no evidence that they have actually quit the school since yesterday.
The leviathan that is a school sucks her up, the days and weeks move towards the next holidays, she has a little more energy, has even managed to go for a drink with friends and not panic about an evenings missed marking.
On balance, she is pleased, none of the students seems to hate her, her colleagues have mostly learnt her name and she begins to relax just a little bit.
And then comes the announcement in the final staff meeting before half term.
There will be a pilot IT programme after the holidays, a number of staff will be issued with lap tops and expected to trial these in their work and then make a presentation at the next staff training day.
The headmistress smiles directly at her
” as our youngest staff member, we are relying in you to help us embrace this new technology, we are sure that you will be a beacon of competence ” and then she hands her a large bulky box and smiles again.
There is a pause while she tries to arrange her face into a suitable expression, some combination of blase knowledge and reined in excitement rather than the rabbit in the headlights look that any form of technology stamps onto her.
She clutches the box to her chest, holding tightly to its cardboard edges as if this very grip can somehow save her from an inevetiable drowning in ignorance.
All day, older colleagues, who have not as yet even bothered to really speak to her, find reasons to just pop into her classroom. There, they carefully approach the box, some of the braver touch it carefully with a single finger, before backing away. All are breezily confident on her behalf, wishing her a productive half term with the computer, sure that she will have lots to share with them in a weeks time.
She actually feels physically sick, wonders if it is too latte to throw herself on the mercy of the head and confess that she is terrified of all technology and has only the most sketchy knowledge of computers, but, the heads’, in fact all of their belief in her is so seductive, so unusual that she cannot bear to let them down and with a plastered on positive smile, she phones a taxi to get the bulky box home.
To be continued…….