I have the First Years after lunch tomorrow. Their capacity for tangential thinking seems to become magnified when lessons are in the afternoon. Yet they haven’t yet developed the skills for diversion possessed by the Year 8 students in the school in Weston-Super-Mare where I did my teacher training.
Talking about a religious artefact, I commented, ‘It’s not something that you would buy at Sainsbury’s.’ (Why had I mentioned Sainsbury’s? Because there was a huge branch directly across the road from the school).
The comment had been a mistake.
‘Sainsbury’s is very expensive, sir.’
‘Is it? Well, I was just using it as an example of a supermarket.’
My qualification of my comment had come too late. There ensued some seconds of debate worthy of a noisy House of Commons. Lidl and Aldi and Morrisons were mentioned as places that were cheaper. Tesco had its adherents. One girl declared, ‘we shop at Waitrose.’
The conversation had been both annoying and impressive, at that age I would have had little idea of the difference in prices between retailers.
I had been trying to teach a lesson on Sikhism.
‘Three, two and one – and quiet. Thank you, Year 8. We’re not talking about supermarkets, we’re talking about what Sikhs wear.’
There had been a look of disappointment on some of the faces, the robust discussion of supermarkets could clearly have continued for some time. I resumed the lesson but wished I had had a copy of Winnie the Pooh stories to hand. We clearly wanted to talk about different things.
Owl and Pooh had wished to talk about different things the day that Christopher Robin led them on an ”expotition” to the North Pole.
“They had come to a stream which twisted and tumbled between high rocky banks, and Christopher Robin saw at once how dangerous it was.
“It’s just the place,” he explained, “for an Ambush.”
“What sort of bush?” whispered Pooh to Piglet. “A gorse-bush?”
“My dear Pooh,” said Owl in his superior way, “don’t you know what an Ambush is?”
“Owl,” said Piglet, looking round at him severely, “Pooh’s whisper was a perfectly private whisper, and there was no need – ”
“An Ambush,” said Owl, “is a sort of Surprise.”
“So is a gorse-bush sometimes,” said Pooh.
“An Ambush, as I was about to explain to Pooh,” said Piglet, “is a sort of Surprise.”
“If people jump out at you suddenly, that’s an Ambush,” said Owl.
“It’s an Ambush, Pooh, when people jump at you suddenly,” explained Piglet.
Pooh, who now knew what an Ambush was, said that a gorse-bush had sprung at him suddenly one day when he fell off a tree, and he had taken six days to get all the prickles out of himself.
“We are not talking about gorse-bushes,” said Owl a little crossly.
“I am,” said Pooh.
I wasn’t talking about supermarkets, they would have liked to have done so.