The Big Issue : Edition 550
10 THEBIGISSUE.ORG.AU 17 NOV–3 DEC 2017 MY WORD ILLUSTRATIONBYDANNYSNELL IF A YEAR at my primary school were a tricky Russian novel, the last few weeks of term would be the part where the system is oppressive and everyone is a jerk and it all means nothing anyway because life is meaningless. The kids are feral, everything’s due and people have gastro, the flu and nits. In an attempt to boost morale, we teachers let the children choose the Community Circle Question of the Day. This one’s from Javo: “If you were an octopus in a glass jar, what would you do?” I sit on the floor with my class, our legs crossed and eyes closed, thinking about the answer. I think of brine and slippery things and tightness. I think of the kid over there who won’t sit down, the notes that I have to chase up, the samples of work I have to get, the writing lesson I haven’t planned, the parent meeting this afternoon, the laminating job, the photocopying I forgot to do, the kid’s novel that I borrowed and cannot find... The room is warm and humming under fluorescent lights. “Who would like to share this morning?” asks the Community Circle Leader. His eager eyes scan the circle – bed hair, slumped shoulders, odd socks, wriggles, a yawn. Someone pings a fidget spinner and it whirrs for a long time. The Leader points to a toothless young sprite. “If I was an octopus in a glass jar, I would probably...try to get out?” the sprite says, his voice raised at the end – his first existential question answered. The holidays are mere weeks away. I became a teacher for the same reason as every other teacher I know: it’s one of maybe five jobs you can do that doesn’t make the world worse. Also, I like kids. They’re funny and mostly honest and sometimes mean but rarely boring. They never want to catch up, they want to play instead. AS THE SCHOOL YEAR COMES TO A FRANTIC END, MEL FULTON WONDERS WHAT HER FIVE YEARS OF TEACHING HAVE BEEN ABOUT.