Very different from schools they are. In a school there is always that shrill background of contained stress, an ultrasonic presence that enters the audible range at clearly defined intervals triggered by bells. The shrill kinesis surges to its next configuration and then settles back into that hinterland between the audible and the physical. There is the unstated possibility that a conch will sound between bells.
The absence of that shrill background means that people just get on with stuff. Rather than blowing into a conch, a disgruntled, tired or uncomfortable student is more likely not to be there. Between lessons there is not much except people waiting for lessons. In fact, there is a culture of arriving very early for lessons and just sitting outside waiting to be allowed in, despite there being a Starbucks on the ground floor of the building where I teach and a refectory in the building across the way. There is more social gathering space for students than there is for staff, and yet many of the students choose to gather by the classroom door and wait for lessons.
It’s an environment where I feel very comfortable. I hope I get the opportunity to stay, but if I don’t I will very much have valued the experience. It will always be the place where I learned that my mum had died, but that’s fine. I’m glad I did my first day with only the anticipation and nerves of the first day in a new job, and not the weight of bereavement. As I walk down to the station at the end of a teaching stint I look across to those stone benches where I sat at lunchtime on 7th January and made a call to one of Mum’s friends because I was worried about her phone being turned off, thinking that the worst I would face would Mum’s disapproval of me being so overly concerned and bothering people on her behalf. She would like/likes/liked that idea of me enjoying my first day. Unsure of the tense or auxiliary.
At the side of the pathway entrance to the station that I use there’s a disused railway building with a sign painted on the side that points to a public air raid shelter. Mum lived through air raids. I hope I or my children never will.