April 1st at a Primary School

Honestly you don't even need to continue reading. This picture tells you all that you need to know.

8:00: I guess you could call any school day a battle. Sometimes the kids are challenging, sometimes they struggle with the material, sometimes they don't like your lesson plan and let you know it,sometimes you don't prepare enough material and have awkward extra time at the end of the class where you don't know what to do so you just play hangman. Fridays make things a little more difficult, because now suddenly you're the only thing standing between the students and two days of freedom. Fridays before breaks are worse, because now you're standing between them and two weeks of freedom. Today is one of those Fridays, a Friday before a break. It's also April 1st.

Today will not just be a battle. Today will be a war. 

If I should fall today, remember me. Know that I fought valiantly. Know that I defended myself and my honor until my final breath. 

But if I make it, I'm totally down to hang out tonight, just text me.

8:33: I don't know much except that the name of the game is Poisson d'Avril and the object is to stick fish on the backs of your unsuspecting friends. The blacktop is empty--all of the kids have already gone to their classrooms. For now, I'm safe. 

8:37: Up in the teacher's lounge with a cup of coffee. Trying to get my strength up. All of my senses need to be sharp today. In about 5 minutes I'm going to collect my first group of students and bring them back here for class. They're the CM2, the French equivalent to 5th grade in the US. These kids have survived at least four years of April 1st mayhem at this school, and now they reenter, wiser and stronger, for a fifth. I'm an ingenue going up against hardened warriors. 

8:45: I have my first three attackers--Jason, Yannis, and Michel. And they're not even being subtle. All three of them are grinning at each other, creeping along with bent knees and hands conspicuously behind their backs. I check behind me every three steps or so, always catching them mid-leap as they try to make up the distance between us. When I'm holding the door of the teacher's lounge for the other students, they say they'll take the door and I can go ahead. Very polite of the young gentlemen, but I decline.

8:47: Everyone's in the classroom. I close the door, wait for it to click shut, hold my breath as everyone takes a seat. I maneuver around the desks and up to the board slowly. Just need to get to the front of the class and turn around and assume commanding teacher mode. And I'm so, so close.

But that's when I feel it. A soft push on my back. The first fish. 

I'm wounded. I'm branded. I'm marked as an easy target. I couldn't escape one assailant and now the rest will swiftly follow. I close my eyes and grimace. So it begins. 

Exhaling, I turn around to face the student who took me down so swiftly. 


I have made a grave mistake. Distracted by the other three boys who probably could have done me no harm, I forgot about the deadliest one. The sneakiest one. The one who's quieter than the rest of the boys but who still gets involved in their antics. Of course he would be the one to bring me down. 

9:07: I persevere. I continue. I teach the lesson on animals and we play charades and everyone has a good time. And I relax. I assume that they won't waste all their fish on me. I assume that since I've been tagged once by this group, they'll leave me to suffer in peace. 

And then Yannis tags me on his way up to be the actor for charades. 

I tell him to be a fox.

9:24: This first CM1 group is relentless. I catch Océane standing up from her desk every time I turn back around from writing on the blackboard. Elliot and Romane have fish on their desks and smiles on their faces, looking like the perfect picture of innocence. Eventually I position myself in the corner of the room with my back to the wall, my only protection against certain slaughter. I am forced to leave my post once, when an argument breaks out over who actually guessed that Camille was acting out "dog" and would therefore have the next turn. 

9:53: I've been ambushed. At least eight students in my second CM2 group all attacked in rapid succession. They played the part of perfect innocence in front of their teacher as they left the classroom with me, but as soon as we were all out of earshot, they pounced. It all happened so fast I couldn't even see who they were. The only one I know for sure is Ryan because he wrote his name on his fish. I have fish on my back, fish on my arm, fish in my hair. There was nothing I could do, no defense or counter attack that I could have deployed. But still I fought. And still I taught. Here is some exclusive footage of the onslaught

10:35: I remained in the teacher's lounge for the 25 minutes of récréation. On a normal day, récréation is a blur of running boys and screaming girls and flying soccer balls and rogue jump ropes and the occasional fight. See for yourself--this is how I enter the courtyard. But today, wounded as I am, I know I won't be able to handle the storm. 

I'm not the only one who has remained hiding in the barracks. Almost all the other teachers have gathered here as well. We're only missing the three teachers who are on playground duty. My heart goes out to them on this day. 

Most of the teachers have remained unscathed. The highest fish count for any of them is three. They looked at me with pity and sympathy as I turned around to reveal the seven fish on my back. They feel more sorry for me when I tell them that this isn't a tradition in the United States, and this is my very first time defending myself against an army of children with fish. 

Now it's time for my third and final CM2 group, and I'm waiting outside the classroom as they take off their coats and get settled again. I feel stronger now. I have rested. I will endure. 

A class of cute little CP (1st Grade) students is walking past me. They see all the fish on my back, and begin to point at me and giggle. A few look like they're about to fall over in hysterics. Today, everyone is an enemy.

11:13: Récréation appears to have been a total bloodbath where everyone used up their remaining fish ammo. I assume this because the third CM2 group did not actually attack me, they just admired the work of their classmates, and now the students in my second CM1 group are tracing and cutting out more fish instead of paying attention. Great. Time for another one of those "I know this might not feel like a real class but hey actually it is" talks.

11:17: The talk works...kind of. The threat of sending them back to their teacher works better. We finally start learning. For some reason, this particular group is interested in the learning the English names of large water creatures such as dolphins, whales, and sharks. There's 10 minutes left and we still haven't gotten to charades.

11:35: After a very short round of charades, class is over. I take everyone back to the the classroom, and I'm just about to turn around when I feel another soft push on my back. Christopher, the final student to enter the classroom, gives me a huge smile. I give him a huge sigh.

At least now I can breathe. There's a two hour break now for lunch, so I'll get to chill out and eat my sandwich and listen in on teacher gossip and read some more of my book. Only two more groups. I can see the light. I will not surrender.

2:00: CM1, round three of four. Surprisingly, these students are a lot more interested in taking fish off of my back than putting fish on. At first I thought they were being nice and trying to help out an injured comrade, but now we're 15 minutes into class and the students are all attacking each other with the fish off their own backs...and the fish off my back.

They weren't helping me. No, they were using me. They were taking away all of my defenses and using them for their own gain. All's fair in love, war, and Poisson d'Avril.

The students are much more interested in tagging each other than tagging me. Which is good, because it means I can remain relatively safe, but also bad because we are getting literally nothing done. It's kind of hard to teach when you're constantly interrupting yourself to say "sit down," "be quiet," "don't pull her hair," "stop hiding under the desk Hugo we can all still see you," or the aforementioned "I know this might not feel like a real class but hey actually it is" speech.

2:03: I'm going to use it. The all-powerful weapon, the most dangerous one in my arsenal. The one all the students forget I have. The one even I fear because of the sheer might of its power.

I point to the five most disruptive students and I tell them to go back to their teacher.

Behold the footage of the fallout. 

2:05: The rest of the class continues in peace.

2:27: The final group of the day. Everyone's out of fish, out of energy, and out of patience. Vacation is a mere half hour away. I know that none of the information I teach this group is going to be retained, and that the only reason they're not acting out right now is because they know I'm sending kids back to the teacher today so I mean business. Just keep going. The end is nigh.

3:00: I have survived. I will live to see the light of another morning. My only scar is the fish from Ryan, which I have saved as a memento of this day. One day I hope that my ancestors will look upon with wonder and pride. Let it serve as a reminder that I was here. I existed. And I survived  the trials and terrors of April 1st, 2016.


3:48: Seriously though, text me if you want to hang out tonight. 

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