Diary of a schoolteacher: Eerie calm and oversized uniforms -- first-years are here
It always takes a while to get used to a bunch of new first-years. First thing you notice when you meet them is how calm they are compared to the other years.
That's because they come in a day earlier than the rest of the crew and haven't witnessed the high standard of chaos that they should be aiming for.
A good few of them are in uniforms that are far too big for them, which just serves to make them look all the more tiny and vulnerable. You've got to watch out for the vulnerability thing.
The other day I automatically slammed my fist down on the nearest desk while trying to instill some peace in the room so I could be heard. Just below my elbow I heard a little shriek as a tiny little girl jumped out of her skin. I hadn't even noticed her!
Don't worry -- you know E Grade -- I apologised to her at the end of class and told her that she was a very good girl. No point in making enemies out of the ones who have actually come to learn.
Yes, I believe I have a reputation for being 50pc consideration and 50pc dedication, but during that same class I did find myself pinned to the collar when it came to keeping calm -- hence the slamming of the fist.
It was that big fellow, Marcus, with the very loud voice. First thing I hear when I walk into the classroom for the first time is his voice booming, "hey mister, who are you?"
Cue puzzlement and shock as I firstly explain that I am to be addressed as Mr Grade, or sir, but not mister.
Might sound snooty in this day of equality and ubiquitous lower-case letters but I get the point across by pointing out that you wouldn't call Gary Barlow 'mister' if you were auditioning for the X-Factor, would you?
I've to confess that at first I didn't take to Marcus, especially when he kept correcting that poor girl with the literacy problems when she was reading, but I'm hopeful that his obvious good sides will take over-- such as his enthusiasm for taking part in discussions and his irrepressible friendliness.
I note that he looks really hurt when I tell him to "be quiet, in God's name, please be quiet." That's a good sign; he cares.
As in all schools we get loads of siblings from the big families from around the place and it didn't take long to pin down the latest version to come from the O'Hooligans. Only he's nothing like Harry, this guy. Seamus is chatty and even listens to what the others are saying without staring them into submission.
As for Lynette McHarpie, she's a great kid, and although she seems to doodle instead of writing, like her sister in sixth year, she's keen to draw some posters to help everyone get to grips with their new school.