My daughter is a teacher and, after four years teaching in Abu Dhabi and another year spent down in New Zealand, is returning to her old job back in a Dublin suburban school.
Things were so bad in Ireland after the financial crash nine years ago — there was a bailout too from the International Monetary Fund, the European Central Bank and the European Union — that the government encouraged teachers to take a five-year career break.
The jobs would be there on their return and in the meantime the vacancies could be filled with substitute teachers, cutting down on wage rates, pensions and benefits.
Now, my daughter is back at her old job and, starting in early September, will have an intake of junior infants, aged four.
“Kickers, screamers and biters,” she says of the class of 25 or so tots who will be left in her care for their first day of school. Ah yes, the best days of their lives.
Imagine having a class of kickers, screamers and biters for seven hours a day, five days a week. Oh, the temptation, which says more about my lack of patience and inability in trying to bring control and order to such a mob of little tots.
The shops are already starting to market their back-to-school clothes and stationery, schoolbags and shoes.
I always remember getting the list of text books for the new school year and it was a mark of pride having the most books and the heaviest satchels — you always seemed more studious, or at least had the appearance of being so.
Those school texts were bought second-hand, and the first job of work was always to cover them in brown paper to protect them for the coming year to be able to sell them on to the class behind. The curriculum never seemed to change, which would have meant that the teachers back then were doing things by rote — if kickers, biters and screamers could indeed be ever down by rote.
Some kids went so far as to cover their school texts in wallpaper left over from a DIY project or the repapering of their front parlours.
School jotters were sometimes covered too but I always thought that was a bit pretentious. It was a big deal to not just have a blue biro, but a red one as well. It seemed like a craze to draw neat red lines using a new wooden ruler across the day’s homework. Within a few weeks, the rulers were inevitable broken or had lumps out of them so the drawn rules were never fully straight again.
It was a big deal too to be in a class where you needed a geometry set, with a compass and dividers with pointers, which invariably too ended being stuck in some classmate.
It was a big deal too to finally be in a class where you needed one of those mathematics books with Greek symbols and logarithm tables and you were learning about dy and dx, cosigns and a lot of other stuff that made no sense and went in one ear and out the other.
I don’t think I was a kicker, biter or screamer on my first day in school — but my teacher then did have a nervous breakdown during the year.