Paper Plane

September 13, 2018

We usually have a pile of tissue boxes stacked on top of the filing cabinets in our office, but last week the supply dried up. Unfortunately, our noses did not. We have been under siege with germs and sickness and the tissue crisis is indicative of this.

PE Claire (there’s also Maths Claire) left the office to hunt down some supplies and returned empty handed. All other offices had also run out and our usual back-up plan, sick bay, was not prepared to release the last of their boxes. The situation was dire. A loud chorus of sniffing was echoing around our office and, no doubt, in all offices and classrooms around the school. The Daily Organiser emailed to say that the school had a record number of absences — staff and students were dropping like flies. Even those who remained in the building were under the weather, Strepsils being passed around to ward off coughing fits and “low impact” classes running in almost every room. You know things are bad when even the substitute teachers are ringing in sick and kids are having to sit on the floor of sick bay to wait for their parents to collect them, as all the beds are full.

My year 8 English class of 25 kids was reduced to just 12. None of them looked great and I could have been mistaken for someone trying to dress up as Rudolph, my nose was so bright red. I managed to locate a DVD of a text that we had studied a few months ago and decided to show it after lunch, as no one looked capable of much more than that. The kids came in clutching their own tissue boxes and water bottles and agreed that the film idea was a good one.

“My eyes are so watery I don’t know if I’ll be able to see it,” sputtered Liam, who usually is so far ahead with his class work that I’m left feeling behind.

“Can I share someone’s tissue box?”

“I’ve got Strepsils if anyone needs any.”

With the film underway, I sat at the back of the room, my own eyes heavy and my head cloudy. One by one kids put their heads down — some on pencil cases, others directly onto their desks. I tried to catch up on marking but my nose kept streaming and my coughing fits became more and more spectacular. My coughing was frequently joined by the throat clearings of my students and their soft nose blows that punctuated key scenes of the film. Within 20 minutes of the film starting, only three students remained awake … and barely. I had to patrol the room in order to keep myself awake. I glanced into the neighbouring classroom through the window and saw Leo pushing through a year 10 English lesson with a tissue firmly held to his nose. And there, in the corner of the room, was a huge pile of tissue boxes. Busted!

Christina Adams is a member of the Australian Education Union (Victoria) and a stand-up comedian