The Blackboard Jungle

days spent beating back the seeds of doubt

Thursday, July 07, 2005

Updates on the London Bombing

Staff were calm. Resolutely unpanicked. Radios were on everywhere, amidst clusters of quiet adults, listening. One guy was reprimanded hotly in the staffroom for joking that perhaps the french had done it.
Soon, the problem becomes not communication with loved ones, but transport.

We waited for the big boys at head office to tell us what to do with the children.

By lunchtime, they all knew, and the thirteen year old girls were attempting hysteria.

With some reason - a huge number of our students have family who work in central London. Just three parents rang the school to order their children home, against all government advice.

Final period, thirteen year old boys, bottom set, low comprehension of what had happened, and there was no way we could get on with that essay we'd planned. We pulled up the BBC news onscreen, and I answered their questions in a slow calm voice, having first established who in the room had relatives in the bombed areas, who had contacted their relatives, who still felt worried.

Experience teaches you to take things carefully and take their concerns seriously. Children very easily take one misunderstood detail and run off with the impression that world war three has started.

We checked what transport lines were affected, read the statement from the weird sub Al Quaeda organisation who had claimed responsibility. Thought about what a 'crusader nation' might mean.

Lenny said "it's weird, 'cause none of us live up London [that's what children south of the river call central London] but all of us know someone who's up there."

John said "we'll never get bombed down here, because we're not economically ... er ... valuable."

Thali said "will we have to stay at school all night?"

John said "as soon as I get home I'm going to change into my army gear, get my water bottle, and go down to the TA centre and offer to help."

Fazio, new to the country, said "How am I going to get to north London now?"

To take their minds off it, after a while, I gave them a choice of videos. We watched a Hitchcock disaster film from the past (The Birds).
Chatted quietly about the possibility of international disaster if all the ants joined together to attack humans.

Ten minutes till hometime, and a tannoy crackles into aged life.
None of the trains in London are running. There might be buses. Go straight home, and walk if you can. If your phone won't work, come downstairs and use ours to check if your parents are picking you up.
If you can't get home by walking, stay here, and we will look after you.
If you go home and your family don't get in contact, come back to school. We will still be open. We will look after you.
The children are calm, their eyes are wide, the thing is still, as yet, an adventure. I repeat the key points for them.

The school will stay open. If you need help, come here.

We will look after you.