Monday, 15 June
There wasn’t a Scheme for me to go to today, so I joined Zara on one of her In-School Presentation days. If the SLOs (Student Liaison Officers) aren’t working on Schemes, then they are either organising or presenting In-School Transport Safety Presentations. If they are presenting, then they go to one school in the morning and one school in the afternoon. If you go into the office and look at the schedule wall it looks like one of those FBI / Police investigation walls with maps and names and numbers that seem like random chaos until you know what’s going on: About 10 permanent staff and 6 temporary staff commuting all over the boroughs of London everyday. The SLOs have to make sure that schools don’t go to a Scheme and have a presentation (in order not to waste time); they have to make sure they get to the hundreds of schools in London and that no repeats happen. The whole time I was there I was trying to figure out how to make the process smoother and the wall less frightening, but I didn’t manage to get there in the end.
Zara’s morning presentation was in Brixton. Brixton, some call it: The New York Bronx of London. I was glad I was following Zara, because I would not want to be in that place on my own for too long. The presentation went well, despite some really restless learners. It was the first time I had seen the presentation, so I focused on Zara and made more notes. Fortunately the basic information was the same, but now there was an interactive presentation to navigate around and the presentation was an hour. The resources and footage had been created for over an hour’s worth of presentation, so the focus points needed to be relevant to the learners: tubes, buses, bicycles, walking, river boat travel, docklands light rail and / or overground trains, depending on what transport forms they used. Zara whizzed through it all with the ease and experience of someone who had been presenting the material for ages. Then she showed the movie clip.
The clip: Three young children go around London, throwing projectiles at vehicles (a jail-term offense as it could result in the death of passengers), destroying safety equipment, stopping an escalator and injuring travellers; and then the piece de resistance: travelling on the tube. The learners in the clip decide it would be a good idea to move between the coaches whilst the tube is moving over thousands of amps of electricity. The sound disappears, there’s only a heartbeat, the last girl steps through, the train takes a bend, the lights black out, the pulse sound starts to fade. The remaining two children go to get help, but they’ve broken the emergency call buttons and the escalator, they have to run up for help. Their slow movements happen to the sound of a fading heartbeat and scenes flash through all the trouble they caused that day. The two bring Officers back to the station platform. The heartbeat stops.
Apparently the movie clip was commissioned by the girl’s parents when she died by stepping in between the carriages. That was Zara’s reply when a learner asked. Actions have consequences. Consequences have a ripple effect. Nothing you do affects only you. In the once noisy, rustling school hall, you could hear a pin drop. I held back my tears, and had to live with the nightmares for a while.
I then had to live through the experience again that afternoon, but as I knew what was going to happen I chose to watch the children’s reactions instead of the movie clip. Before showing the movie clip the SLOs have to check with the teachers concerned to find out whether or not any of the learners have had any experiences that would mean they shouldn’t watch the clip. Thus the learners who do watch the clip shouldn’t have an unpreventable subjectively personal reaction to it that relives any trauma. As I watched the learners, their reactions were so varied it was quite astounding. I could see some learners taking it in intellectually, others were near tears, some found it slightly amusing and some had no reaction at all. The ones who don’t react at all seem to be sleepwalking through their lives and the visual and aural cues of intense emotion pass right by them with only a blink, how much of the value of life are they missing already? Unfortunately this group had a few attention seekers and learners who know better than everyone else, so Zara had to waste time by stopping and waiting on several occasions to get all the children squashed in the little room to show some respect. Thankfully the movie clip stuns many of the children and motivates for more well-mannered discussion.
The day had created a lot for me to take in. Travelling a long distance between the schools and back to the office, the emotional rollercoaster, the reactions of the children and trying to learn it all myself. I went to Attic Studios and did the Spanish dancing and Street Dancing Hip Hop classes. When my soul and mind are overworked, my body must join them.