I loved free periods at high school, a chance to catch up on homework or to openly read the novel I was covertly reading under the desk whenever I had the chance. I usually didn’t mind free periods when I was teaching and was the substitute myself, although remember the occasional class (two in fact) when a year 8 class must have had lots of sugar at lunch time and were quite irrepressible, and in one case, almost dangerous.
This story relates to a day when I was in the staff room during a free and a friend who had been timetabled during a free asked if I’d mind coming in to the class for a time to help him out. He had an ‘often difficult’ class, but had an activity he thought might engage them for which needed an offsider.
I won’t give you the instructions he gave me just yet, but he described the activity to the class as ‘ESP’. He introduced me to the class, explaining, using lots of embellishment, that we had ‘ESP’ and could read each other’s minds. By way of example, he placed three books on top of one another on the desk, explaining that I could read his mind, and could tell him which book of the three books the class had chosen.
I was out of the room while they chose of course. The irrepressible students came up with all sorts of ideas as again and again, on entering the room, I appeared to read his mind and correctly chose the book they had selected. They suggested it was “the words he’d used”, “the expression on his face”, “where he was looking in the room”, and more. Up to half an hour later they were still trying to work out what was happening, and of course we were in no rush for them to find out!
Do you want to know the answer to our riddle of ‘ESP’? It was very simple really, it related to where I was when I walked towards him – if he asked the question when I was near the door, it was the top book; if I was in the middle of my journey towards him it was the middle book, and if I’d almost reached him it was the bottom book!
It was such fun – a mystery waiting to be solved. It also had a very ‘bonding’ effect. When I’d see the students later during yard duty, or if ever we had a free together, we were almost soul mates. We’d once shared an experienced of the unexplained, in a fun and seemingly magical way, even if only for half an hour or so.
Bev Lee, August 1 2016