I shuddered with frustration. ‘Access Denied.’

Those two simple words were preventing me from moving forward, yet made my heart race. Again I stood up and went in search of more help.

‘If only I could do this on paper,’ I muttered, a little too loudly. Nobody bothered to look up from their screens, to see who had said it. They already knew.

My dream of a quiet, easy week was beginning to fade very quickly, as I listened to the tutor telling me, for the fourth time, how to input the ‘security level alpha codes’. I smiled at him knowingly and waited for him to leave me alone in my misery. Then I could privately try to break into the system.


When I was training to be a teacher, no one warned me that I had to be prepared to spend hours at an electronic screen, pressing random keys, in order to make progress. Promotion by laptop. I thought it was supposed to be all about children’s learning. Yet here I am, at the Information Technology Training Centre, while my class is back in school, undoubtedly suffering under some temporary supply teacher.

By lunchtime, I had made very little progress. The tutor said that I wasn’t quite ready yet to ‘format the teachers’. I felt isolated and alone. I felt unformatted. Maybe there will be a Special Support group that I can join, where my inabilities won’t be such a public humiliation.

At least I survived the morning session. Only a day and a half to go.

As soon as I re-entered the classroom, I felt the security of being back in my own place. The nightmares of the last two days were soon smothered. This is where I am useful, respected and, of course, very popular. I had to admit to myself that I had missed my class.

The children started to file in, letting out a collective moan when they saw my grinning face. They clearly wanted the supply teacher back. Apparently she was ‘brill and trendy’ and allowed the kids to call her Miss Bobby. It didn’t take me long to realise that Miss Bobby had not only left me with thirty two disgruntled pupils, but also a pile of thirty two unmarked books.

Next time, she’ll be the one to be denied access!

I’ll lock them in the cupboard and lose the key.

The exercise books, not the children, of course.

During the morning break, the ‘Leader of Training’ cornered me in the staffroom. She needed a full report on the two days. She offered me a blank smile.

‘For the records, of course,’ she added.

‘Course records, of course,’ I replied.

How was I going to tell her that I had spent day one, trying to get into some sort of Enigma protected system and day two, trying to break my way out?

The I.T. tutor had accused me of creating ‘Miss Peter Hall’, who had appeared on the authority records as a head teacher of a primary school in the town centre. My new transgender friend had to be quickly deleted, before a bank account was automatically set up for him/her. I tried to laugh it off by saying that ‘Miss Peter Hall’ clearly needed formatting, but the tutor thought that ‘IT’ wasn’t a laughing matter.

He logged me off, closed down my screen and walked away, with a hint of a skip in his step.

Thursday’s science lesson was supposed to be based on the production of electric cars. I would let the kids paint the finished products red, to make sure that they realised I could be brill and trendy too. However, things didn’t quite go as planned, as it soon became clear that Miss Bobby had lent all the scissors to our man in the mobile.

Warren was dispatched to reclaim them, but he soon returned empty handed.

‘Sir, door was locked. Couldn’t get in.’

‘Not to worry Warren, I know the problem of denied access. It’s a common experience. OK class, listen up, we’ll move to plan B.’

I was quickly trying to think of a plan B.

By Friday afternoon, Michael still hadn’t made much progress with his electronic car. In fact he hadn’t made much progress in anything since he first started school. Plenty of statements, targets and plans were flying back and forth.  However fast the paperwork flew, Michael just slowly trundled along.

Today, for a reason only known to him, Michael was sitting in his wheelchair, wearing a Boy Scout’s uniform. Leaning over, I moved his neckerchief away from the blank card and again showed him how to draw a car dashboard.

‘This is our fourth attempt,’ I said and immediately realised that I had recently heard those same words being said to me.

I wheeled Michael into the hall for the end of week assembly and parked him at the back. He had been crying and was gripping his hankie as if his life depended upon it. A couple of girls had laughed at him and called him a Girl Guide. I’d arranged to speak to the two girls at the end of the school day.

An unexpected feeling of pleasure flowed through me, as my class settled down in a reasonably straight line, without too much fuss. I looked around and realised that everyone else was in place. By the restless silence, it dawned on me that they had been there quite some time.

Looking to the back of the hall, I gave Michael a reassuring smile and squeezed onto the teachers’ bench.

Miss Smith nudged me and I instinctively shuffled down a little. She then gave me a firm poke on my arm. In an over exaggerated stage whisper and a not so well hidden smirk, she said,

‘It’s your assembly.’

At that moment I wanted to delete her.

Hiding absolute panic, I calmly stood up and strolled to the front of the mass of children.

As Mrs. Green closed the piano lid, I looked back at Michael, who was playing with his woggle and, in a moment of pure inspiration and a delaying tactic, invited him to join me. Samantha helped to guide him forward. It wasn’t easy for him to get where he needed to be. Skilfully and disappointingly, they managed to avoid Miss Smith’s toes and navigated expertly round the little ones at the front.

‘Let him have access, please,’ I said to the nursery kids. They looked at me as if I was talking French.

‘Good afternoon everybody. Today, you will have noticed that Michael is wearing his Scout uniform. He’s wearing it to help us learn about one of the Scouts’ golden rules. Does anyone know which rule I am referring to?’

Several over-stretched arms shot up.

I pointed at Oliver.

‘Always be prepared?’

‘Yes, Oliver. Be prepared.’


Published: Junior Education Magazine.