Suddenly I saw the paper, all round, everywhere. "Perhaps you'd better pick the paper up," I said hopefully. No one took the faintest notice. The paper remained till the following day, when two of the offenders were sent out by Miss Dave to clear it up. They went meekly and at once. I wondered if I should ever reach such a pinnacle when two small boys would do exactly what I told them to do.
I spent the whole of that first term deciding it was my last. I lived in a state of chaos and confusion from the beginning of the day till the end. I was thrown into that group of twenty eight year-old boys and girls as you might be thrown into the deep end of a swimming bath, unable to swim. I sank, and wondered if the end of term would ever come. No one seemed to be worried by the noise that came from the group's playroom. I took "Rests" every day after the mid-day meal; I sat in the wicker-chair and some children, just a few, settled down on those gay red rugs I had so much admired, and they read books. The majority sat and chatted, and wandered round the room.
"Lie down! sit down! be quiet!" I roared, but all to no avail.
I took walks: we straggled through the park, those in front about a mile ahead of those behind: the latter probably never left the grounds for all I knew.
At last it must have reached the attention of Miss Leila that all was not perhaps as it should be.
"Well" she said one evening, as she surveyed the wreckage of an evening's play after the children had gone to bed. "Well," she said again, "it's all experience and you'll learn". And learn at last I did.
The following day I found pencilled notes dotted about the playroom - "This fireplace is not a waste paper basket; where is the basket?" The basket had, in fact, been taken into the garden and never seen again. "What is this?" was put on some appalling object that smelt and should have been in the dust-bin. "This needs a dust" on top of a book-case. "These need attention" was written on a piece of paper and pinned to the book-case.
At the beginning of each "Rest" in came Miss Leila. The children rushed to their rugs: the books were sorted, dealt with: back at the end of "Rest" came Miss Leila again: Anyone not reading properly on their rug was taken to her sitting-room after tea, where they sat and read then.
After a week of this a faint air of peace crept in: more notes found their way into the playroom though - this needs to be polished, that to be cleaned, this locker needed turning out.
It was certainly a novel way of teaching and I learnt from it. I suppose nowadays I should have walked out in disgust, reporting the whole thing to a union, but I stayed. I learned to take walks: I grew to like the dog Sally. Miss Leila said one day, "the dog needs exercise, you'd better take her out with you when you take the children". So she accompanied us every day till the day of her death. She was greatly loved by the little girls and many of the small boys; some of the toughest thought it 'cissy' to openly show affection either to humans or animals, but when they thought themselves unnoticed, would be seen giving a small stroke or pat to the benign and loving Sally. There was much argument as to who should hold her on the lead; it was quite unnecessary that she should even be on a lead but the disappointment was so great that for half the walk she led in turn one child after another; no one was far behind, no one was out of sight; she was worth her weight in gold was that dog.
I learnt how to manage "Rests" so that eventually I also was able to read sitting in the wicker-cane chair. There was peace, there was quiet for that forty minutes. Miss Leila ceased to come in at the beginning of each "Rest": the notes dotted about the playroom ceased; what had seemed like a bunch of young tyrants became young individuals of immense interest, immense potentiality and it became a pleasure to meet them and not an endless anxiety. I decided to stay for another term; Miss Leila decided the Community would keep me and after that I never looked back. The following term I was there from the start, I knew what to expect, I knew what I was doing, and going to do.