I’m attending a primary class obervation hour, east end of Glasgow.
The children are six years of age. Many are from disadvantaged homes we used to call “poor.” Elbows poke out of frayed jerseys, snotty noses abound, hair cut by garden shears.
It is library time. Library Time consists everybody sitting cross-legged on the floor, around teacher, Mrs MacIntyre, elderley, unmarried, prim, proper, kindly and plump, sits on a chair one size too small for her ample derriére. “Time to choose a book for today.”
The children are given their choice of book. Few look as if anything more than a tabloid newspaper enters their home. Then again, that’s what schools are for – to point the way.
From the edge of the half-circle, his shirt tail hanging out his trousers, National Health presciption glasses askew on his snub nose, pink scrubbed cheeks, Michael throws up hand and arm high, waggling fingers to attract teacher. He points to the top book shelf.
“Miss, Miss! Seize us doon tha’ book tae read.”
(Seize is slang, colloqual for “grab,” or “give to me.”)
Like penguins identifying their chick in a flock, Mrs McIntyre is adept at recognising an individual child’s voice amid a hubbub of prattle. She stands up and moves to the top shelf.
“That yin, that yin, there, Miss. ” He points again . “Seize it doon fir me.”
“Now, Michael, what is that magic word we need to hear first?” she asks, disapprovingly.
The class falls silent waiting to see if he knows the obvious – “please.”
A pained expression crosses his face. Michael thinks hard for a long time. He wipes the back of his hand horizontally under his drippy nose, and, inspiration rising to the occasion, he answers …..