Just like every public school in Australia, we have been told to watch our spending. We have been warned about the dangers of excess photocopying, the reasons behind fewer staff morning teas and the importance of cutting back on all faculty budgets. We have maximum capacity in our classes and have to fill in three forms if we need a new whiteboard marker from the store room. These are tough times.
Despite the financial duress and pressure, it is good to see that our school still has its key priorities for spending in place. By this, I am referring to our fish tank budget, which, if anything, has increased of late. Let me explain.
A while back, it was decided by the powers that be that a fish tank would be a good addition to the foyer. A large tropical fish tank complete with a thriving community of coloured fish was duly installed. We all marvelled over the beauty and serenity that the fish tank provided.
And then, a terrible fungal disease struck and the community had to be treated with antibiotics that coloured the water fluorescent yellow. We were only able to salvage two fish from this catastrophic event. The men from the local aquarium came and cleaned out the tank and installed yet another colourful community of fish. Once again, the foyer was a beautiful place to be.
Soon, it was decided that other areas of the school must also have fish tanks of their own the principal’s office, the assistant principal’s office, the library, the business manager’s office, the textiles room. Every corner of the school showcased an aquatic masterpiece.
“Look, Miss. That big fish is chasing the little one. Look!”
“Is that fish okay? It’s upside down.”
“Why is that fish stuck on the filter? Is it dead?”
Sitting in the principal’s office, I have been drawn in by the tank, waiting for the treasure chest within it to open its lid and pump bubbles into the water.
“Christina? Did you hear what I just suggested? Christina!”
Students who “don’t quite fit in” have been encouraged to contribute to the upkeep of the tanks and can often be seen striding around the school carrying a bucket full of dirty tank water, heading for the garden beds. This generally works well, except for the time a few months ago when one such student decided to toss his bucket of dirty water all over a rival, just as a tour of prospective parents and students rounded the corner. Many assemblies were held in relation to that incident.
So, it came as no surprise last week when hosting our annual open night that, despite being handed fistfuls of balloons bearing the school logo and being told the budget could not cover the estimated $57 for a helium machine, nor could the school provide drawing pins or Blu Tack for display boards, each and every tank was professionally cleaned and re-populated. That will bring the enrolments in for sure.
Christina Adams is a member of the Australian Education Union (Victoria) and a stand-up comedian.