They cover the entire floor with a creative buzz, drawing at first, before taking on the persona of their creatures whose bodies consist of parts of foods, places, sports, animals and objects. Bizarrely, one girl seems to associate leisure entirely with spiders!
Wonderfully, the teacher and her assistant, as well as a girl on work experience at the library, all join in. The teacher writes a poem and says she might make a poet one day. I tell her she already is.
Even more strangely, our starting-point had nothing to do with fantastic creatures, but was the poem 'Leisure' by Pill-born poet W.H.Davies, the original Supertramp. Sadly, the museum (on the same floor) seems to have no place for one of Newport's most famous sons, who was a real down-and-out in the States and Canada before acquiring a wooden leg whilst trying to hop on a train and ending up doing his tramping in London instead. He became one of the leading Georgian poets thanks largely to Edward Thomas, who took him under his wing. His autobiography tells all.
It was only when the teacher mentioned Friday afternoon as they were leaving, that it occured to me: this was that dreaded teaching time last-lesson-on- Friday-before-freedom- kids-even-more-hyper-crowd-control-how-about-a-leaflet-then?
I haven't missed such survival tactics since I retired from teaching a couple of years ago, nor have I missed the thrilling opportunities to get kids producing work they never knew they were capable of, simply because I get a chance to do that now in places like Newport Library.
But, as the public sector strike looms for November 30th and almost the entire workforce in education will be out in the fight for decent pensions, I have nothing but total admiration for friends, ex-colleagues and close relatives who remain on the chalkface ( well , interactive whiteboard seam).
As ever, I overhear conversations on the buses of the 'They get 6 weeks holiday ' variety and I really would like to say - 'Well, you try it! It's one of the most demanding jobs you can think of, if you do it properly. You have to possess endless patience and need to be on top of your game at all times. Above all, you really do need to care about every pupil.......even the ones who make your life very difficult!'
I can recall one teacher in Merthyr who had spent most of his life in industry before joining the profession. He used to sit in the staff room in a state of utter shock much of the time, because he simply hadn't anticipated how hard it would be.
'Waterloo Road' and 'Gwaith/ Cartref' couldn't be further from the truth. In both, you see mostly young glamorous teachers out partying all hours. In reality, many would be at home marking and preparing, or on the sofa sleeping out of exhaustion through the fantasies of 'Waterloo Road' and 'Gwaith/Cartref'! I think of my wife spending hours to make her lessons so stimulating for her class and having to fill in mind-numbingly pointless forms.
Teachers do so much work without any remuneration and one example is the many parents' evenings.Imagine if they were solicitors and they charged each parent according to time taken : they wouldn't need to be going on strike about the Government's callous cuts to their pensions.
The action is unprecedented. Even the hitherto reactionary NAS/UWT which supported SATs and teaching assistants(the latter now take many lessons which should be taught by qualified teachers, just as the NUT warned), are going on strike.
Remarkably, the ATL have even taken a lead in this. This is a trade union who are the descendants of the PAT ( we dubbed them the PATSIES), whose one policy seemed to be.......we don't ever strike!
As support is almost unanimous, it's appalling to see the nature of some resistance. A former colleague has told me about one teacher, over 50, who actually said to him - 'Oh well, it doesn't affect me, so I'm not supporting it!'
Those who fail to support a democratic decision should not benefit if there is an eventual victory for the unions. They will have taken their pay for one day and maybe crossed the picket lines. Like the example above, they have no principles and are totally selfish.
The attempts by the ConDem Government to divide and rule with their marginally improved offer have failed. Now they are trying to bully the unions into submission , with Liberal Danny Alexander at the forefront. Any views on this Kirsty Williams?
With minimal support from the Labour Party, it is surely up to us to make demands like the Chartists of old. I am not a reformist, yet I see them as a step-ladder to reach a window and , beyond that, a changed country. Here are 6 possible ideas for a 21st century Charter :-
1. Everyone must have the right to a decently-paid job.
2. Everyone must have the right to decent accomodation.
3. All forms of privilege to be abolished, including the Lords and monarchy.
4. The democratic nationalisation (i.e. elected management) of the utilities and transport services.
5. Radical redistribution of wealth, based on progressive taxation, such as the bank transactions tax.
6. Equal status for all historic languages and cultures of these Isles, such as Welsh and Gaelic ( applied to public and private sectors alike).
These should be the absolute minimum demands and I hope the likes of Frost and Zephaniah Williams would approve. Perhaps even William Henry's spirit would give them a nod.
W.H.DAVIES AT NEWPORT LIBRARY
By the Reference Library
(no place in the Museum,
though he could've been dug up
with that Medieval ship
from the mudbanks of the Usk).
All his possessions, two bags,
stuffed into a single seat ;
he was desperately trying to sleep.
William Henry, son of Pill,
classed in Wikipaedia as
'Poet, Writer, Tramp'.
Here, much darker
(maybe that mud?)
and, as far as I could tell,
without a wooden leg.
He was waiting for Edward Thomas
to discover him again
(wrong place, wrong century).
I wanted to say, 'If you're a Supertramp,
how come you're not crossing the sea?'
He handed me a scrap of paper,
genuinely shocked to be there,
it read - Too much time to stop and stare,
I could do without this leisure.