I burst into the staffroom with a howling 6-year-old in my arms.
I am quite stressed.
Note to self: when trying to bribe your classes of unruly,
wild animals out-of-control children with stickers, it is imperative to ensure that you have enough stickers for all of them. Not, say, enough for all but one of them.
The worst possible time to discover that you are one sticker short would probably be when you are reaching the end of the sticker page and have almost finished distributing them to the excited children, who are all comparing stickers and looking ridiculously pleased with themselves.
The look on little Elif’s face damn near breaks my heart as she looks expectantly up at me, smiling her mostly baby-toothed smile and then gradually looking more and more anxious as she reads my expression and looks at my now-empty sticker page. Ohhhhhhh crap. Am suddenly the worst human being on the entire planet. No, no, am not even human. Am soulless, black-hearted monster. The child’s lower lip begins to tremble, and her bright blue eyes fill with tears as I try a humourous approach by miming my own stupidity, smacking my forehead, covering my face in shame, saying “silly, silly teacher, d’oh!” etc.
It is all in vain.
Elif begins to sob pitifully, and my cold black heart is sucked from my chest with a whoosh. It wouldn’t be so bad if she were one of the monsters, but she’s one of the sweetest, best-behaved kids I teach, and has never so much as spoken out of turn, let alone run screaming around the classroom trying to headbutt everyone. She is a wee sweetheart, and deserves her sticker more than practically anyone else in the class.
This is the worst thing that anyone in the whole world has ever done to a human being in the entire recorded history of humanity.
My heartfelt apologies and desperate pleas fall on deaf ears, and now half the class are trying to comfort the near-hysterical Elif, throwing reproachful glances in my direction. Oh, lord. I have some serious self-hatred going on right now. Elif is crying so hard she is having trouble breathing, and I’m mentally scanning every building within a mile radius, trying to recall if I’ve seen anywhere that might possibly be a shop selling stickers. I find a sweet in my pocket and try to offer it to her as a special prize for being the best student of the day and too good for mere stickers, but she isn’t having any of it. No one offers to swap their sticker for the sweet. That would be helping me out, and heaven forbid they’d do that.
I’ll go and find a sticker, don’t worry, don’t cry… I look desperately at the wailing child as I move towards the door, and realise I can’t just leave her like that for a teacher or parent to chance upon and all the other children to tell the grim tale of the evil foreign teacher who punished poor little Elif for no reason whatsoever, leaving her heartbroken and devastated.
I scoop her up in my arms and she just sobs into my shoulder, her worldly pain and distress blinding her to everything around. Her huge tears run down my neck and soak into my shirt as I run up the stairs like a mad thing, silently pleading with the universe to give me a break, here. Please, someone have a sticker. Anyone. Any sticker. Please…
I fling open the door of the foreign languages department, and raise my voice over the buzz of my colleagues’ voices. This is an emergency! Does anyone have a sticker?! Any sticker! I need a sticker, right now!
Everyone pauses and turns to stare at my flustered face, and Elif continues to sob as if her heart is breaking. All the middle and high school teachers look blank and horrified, wondering what on earth I’ve done to this poor child, but all the kindergarten and primary teachers instantly leap to their feet and begin rummaging through their books and files with the sense of urgency the occasion warrants.
I’ve got one! I’ve got one! It’s got a princess on it and everything! shouts Jenny excitedly, making her way through the crowd as she waves my salvation at me. I am so overcome that I can barely thank her, and I set Elif down and show her the princess sticker. It’s twice the size of all the other stickers, which will no doubt cause further uproar, but I will sure as hell not be there to deal with it. Look! Elif! A special sticker for you because you are such a good girl!
Stickers are magic cures for most things, but especially for not having been given a sticker in the first place. Elif stops crying and smiles a smile of pure delight. She thanks me for the sticker, and attaches it carefully to her cardigan, before skipping off in the direction of her classroom.
I sigh a shaky sigh of relief and post traumatic stress, and turn around to be greeted with the somewhat unexpected sight of my estate agent attempting to chat up one of my colleagues.
My estate agent is now following me to work and hitting on my friends in the staff room.
There is never a dull moment. Not one.