Yes this is my contribution to Sian's Storytelling Sunday [a tale-telling event on the 1st Sunday of each new month at From High in the Sky] ... and yes, this is Friday. But let's not allow a matter of days to spoil the moment eh? [Plus, fortunately Sian welcomes entries for a whole week afterwards].
And so ... here's a story inspired by Sian's suggestion of sharing a school related story.
But first, you need to know: part-time, during term time, I work as an 'EPA' (Educational Personal Assistant) in a University supporting students with disabilities. Basically whatever their impairment prevents them from doing then - under their direction - I do instead.
It can be as simple as opening doors or carrying bags right up to taking notes, reading aloud, using equipment on their behalf ... and all kinds of other, intriguing and not always predictable activities.
And there's a Golden Rule for EPAs. One which is stressed by management during initial training and re-stressed again and again and again afterwards:
You don't get involved.
It's not your course.
It's the student's.
Do not take away their chance to have as independent student experience as possible.
In practise this means when you're at work - nothing's about you.
- You don't answer questions in lectures ... even when you know the answer and no one else is offering anything!
- You don't offer opinions in class discussions ... even when implored by desperate tutors;
- You don't correct mistakes in work that the student hasn't noticed ...even when you know it's during their final exam of a Masters degree ... (oh my, was that a tough 2 hours!);
And some days following that Golden Rule is hard to do.
And on others?
Oh ... on others you thank your lucky stars it exists ... like days when you have to accompany a student to a 'Laughter Workshop' ...
Oh. You meant *that* laughter
"I'm not sure what I'll have to do, but I'm interested in stand-up comedy, so I thought I'd sign up and see what it is".
So said the student as we made our way to the Fresher's Week event billed as a 'Laughter Workshop'.
Fine by me. I try to be funny [you might not have noticed]. I'm interested in comedy. I might pick up a tip or two for myself. I can think of worse ways to spend an autumnal afternoon. Except ...
Except there'd been a slight misunderstanding in the promotion of this event and ... and well ... well it wasn't about stand-up comedy.
[Not unless I ever decide a fancy a stint as a stand-up, in which case I'm definitely working it into my routine!]
Because this was one of those workshops where you literally have to LOL.
And you do it:
- LOUDLY ... and quietly.
- From your belly. Fom your throat.
- At different p i t c h e s.
- At different s p e e d s
- While standing.
- While sitting.
- Stopping just short of ROFLMAO-ing
- With your shoulders.
- With strangers ...
- but without jokes!
Take a moment now to imagine the scene. And the stunned students in attendance.
Meanwhile, the lady giving the class was straight from central casting: middle-class. Wearing a rainbow knitted jumper. Smelling strongly of incense. Honestly, if I'd made any of that up I'd have worried about over-stereotyping and being too far-fetched.
... and all that's even before I tell you that this self-proclaimed 'laughter therapist' was getting more and more frustrated at the very low number in attendance; she mumbled and complained that her event had not been publicised properly and tried valiantly to manage her annoyance that those who had turned up were expecting a comedy class.
And what was the song she was playing - in a constant loop - while she expressed this tension and frustration?
Well, that would be: Don't Worry, Be Happy.
I kid you not.
And ... when, as was inevitable, she turned my way ...
... and extended a well meaning invitation for me to join in ... with all that laughing-like-a-crazy-person-in-public-activity ...
... then never, never, neither before nor since, have I been happier to do as I was told.
To play by the rules.
To state management policy.
"I'm sorry" I replied ... "we're not meant to impinge on the student experience ... I'm really not allowed to join in ... ".
All together now: Don't worry ... be happy ... don't worry be happy now ... ooh, oooh ooooh oooo