Skin Deep 219

A couple of months ago, one of my kids came home with a school project to create a medieval ‘Book of Days’ (do your own research). As usual, I found out about it quite a way into the amount of time they had been given to do it – we had something like five days left out of an original month-long slot, and some of the kids had already given theirs in.

I figured we might as well use this to our advantage and asked her what sort of things they had produced. Most of them were apparently quite small. Pieces of A4 paper folded in half and then written in. If there’s something that drives me up the wall, it’s lack of effort in anything. Whatever it is you’re doing, with a little bit of thought it can probably be made better. There are probably good reasons in the universe as to why people like me aren’t teachers. That would be a very full bin.

Anyway, apparently there were also a few good ones – I heard a rumour that one of them was particularly enviable and had a great cover on it. Something to do with pretty gemstone-type things stuck on the cover. She was impressed with this, and I could see that there was a little bit of jealousy there and she didn’t think she could do anything nearly as good.

So I did what any decent parent would do and declared quite out of character (ahem), “fuck her and the horse she rode in on” and went shopping for supplies. Thus, sometime later, we found ourselves armed with enough materials to make what came to be known as ‘The Biggest Book of Days in the World. Ever!’

We had a staunch black cover that held the parchment-style paper in place, a neat ribbon holding it all together, a researched font style that got redrawn by hand, and, where the others had put in the months of the year and written something about the seasons (or some other lackluster junk), we opted for custom zodiac signs that got drawn out in a cool style and written about. OK… so if you know what a Book of Days is now, that’s probably a little outside of the brief, but I didn’t care. This was one school project that needed to kick ass – one that would put her on the map. At least that’s how I saw it. If I’d had it my way, I’m sure we could have bound it in calf-skin, but I guess you have to draw the line somewhere, and even I know it’s not good to send an 11-year-old back to school with something that looks
like the Necronomicon from The Evil Dead.

Fast forward a little to a couple of days ago, it was parents evening and I found myself sitting in front of the history teacher who had assigned the project. In the name of all that is holy, how can history teachers throughout the history of education be so freaking dull? Sorry, bad use of the word ‘history’ featured twice there – couldn’t think of another way around it. Surely the point of getting into history is that you have all the stories of the human race and beyond to tap into. Sitting there I found her about as inspiring as a delayed train on an open station in the rain.

I hadn’t heard anything about the project since it had been handed in and wondered why. Being a writer, you get good at reading things upside down across a table very early on. There was a list on graph paper. Kids names. Marks for projects. What did I find? That’s right – all of them were marked the same based as far as I could see on the merit of simply showing up and handing it in on time.

We looked at each other. She smiled at me. I smiled at her. We knew a good job had been done on this regardless. Aside from me buying the materials and punching holes in it using a screwdriver and a hammer, she did it all herself. I know the teacher thinks that I helped, but that’s against the law in our house and neither of us much care what she thinks anymore.

The point of this? Well, so long as you’re not a dullsville history teacher, I’m sure you can read between the lines yourself…


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