The first day in the school canteen, during the peak of recess, made me want to bolt out the front gate, kissing a career in teaching adios! Nothing quite hits the pitch of 200 six to eight-year-olds hyped up on lunch and freedom. They were hiding, they were screaming, they were laughing out loud, they were running, they were skipping, they were crying. Children this age do none of the above quietly. I couldn’t hear myself chew. The only words that pierced through the noise was playing over and over in my head -“Let me out!”
In the weeks that passed I discovered a teacher’s cafeteria away from most of the chaos. It was my sanctuary. I could actually think and process taste again. My mind gradually adjusted to the racket as I passed the canteen during the meal time frenzy over the weeks, but I still avoided it whenever I could. Then one day, I had to have a meal with the children because I was in charge of younger students for that particular day and teachers are required to have meals with them.
I thought I’d end up losing my head right in the middle of it all, but something strange began to happen. As I watched them have their meals next to me, they ceased being part of a mob. Their faces, adorable grins and twinkling eyes beamed at me. Their chatter was amusing. They were little people stopping in the middle of a grueling day to eat and unwind, just as I was. The memory of my first few days came back to me. The noise was now a bubble, yes it was loud but there was life in it. Little feet were scattering to play as soon as the last spoonful of rice was stuffed past their lips. Games were being invented, friendships formed and reformed. I saw them with fresh eyes and revelled in their uncomplicated relationships. With unleashed children all around me, I rested. There is beauty in almost everything, if we take the time to absorb it. Then the bell rang and the bubble popped.