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Mike's Pets

Miranda is a Primary Supply Teacher working in schools  through Protocol Education in Manchester. Her post describes the often underplayed value of an engaging classroom "visitor".

A man from the local pet shop - "Mike's Pets" came to visit  a Year 1 class I taught last week. The children were practically on the roof with excitement, as Mike (let us assume it was Mike himself, because he definitely looked like a Mike - early-thirties, those ergonomic shoes that you’re permanently rocking in, and Milky Bar kid  hair) took out various boxes with air holes. Inside were kittens, lizards, mice, a guinea pig and finally, the pièce de résistance, a gingery snake called Charles.

Mike and his wife had given him this name because they thought he looked like Charles Dance. He sort of did. The children laughed when Mike told them about Charles Dance. They didn't get it, but by then Mike could do no wrong. At one point I saw him (Mike, not the snake) pat his pockets to locate his rolling tobacco, such was his sense of relaxation amongst friends.

Mike told the children about how he looked after the pets in the shop, and what they liked to eat. He fielded increasingly philosophical/rude questions with naive charm instead of nipping them in the bud the way anyone who has children or has taught them would.

‘When pets go to heaven, do they go to a general pet heaven or one that’s just for their kind of pet? Like would all guinea pigs just be with other dead guinea pigs?’ asked the brightest most undiagnosed kid in the class.

‘Erm, there’s just a general afterlife but probably with people in there too. Like their owners and the people who walked them,’ Mike spoke brisky but looked a bit uncomfortable. He was probably an atheist, who had seen a lot of death in his job.

‘Don’t they have to wait ages for their owners to come though,’ persisted the cleverest kid, ‘Mice only live about a year, but people could die when they’re like a hundred. If they don’t smoke they could.’ Mike chose to turn away and take another question from the floor. But it turned out to be a popular ‘talking point’.'My Mum smokes in the car.’All the children waded in with tales of adults smoking until someone, wishing to get back to the matter in hand, asked Mike if he lived in a cage in the shop. Mike explained that he lived above the shop in a house. The children looked very impressed again and asked if he had any pets in his home. Mike said no and explained that he didn’t need to as he could spend all the time he wanted with a range of pets. The children then appeared unconvinced, understandably suspicious of a pet shop owner with no pets.  

I’ll always remember Mike. I think many of the children will too. Visitors to schools are so brilliant. They give children a sense that the world is populated with wayward and interesting people who are totally out of step with primary school life. As a child who felt out of step with primary school myself, I used to love the poets, artists and zoo-keepers who came in for talks. I even loved the stranger danger NSPCC lady and her terrifying short films. 

When I'm feeling dispensable and forgettable on daily supply work, I like to pretend I'm one of those visitors – forgotten by teaching staff by the end of the day, but remembered by children for what they brought into the classroom, for who knows how long.

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Tags: Miranda, ProtoBlog, Pets, Classroom Visitor, Supply Teacher, Primary Teacher, Year One, Teach in Manchester, Pet Shop, Protocol Education

Category: Australian Teachers

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