Introduction

This poem talks about a child’s first day at school. It tells us about this very familiar experience that all of us have gone through. Everyone’s first day at school feels very strange because it is our first time away from home on our own.

About the Poet

Roger McGough (born 1937) is an English poet, broadcaster, children’s author and playwright. He presents the BBC Radio 4 programme known as Poetry Please, and also performs his own poetry.

Theme

The theme of this poem is a child’s first day at school.

Line 1- 15

A million billion willion miles from home
Waiting for the bell to go. (To go where?)
Why are they so big, other children?
So noisy? So much at home they
must have been born in uniform.
Lived all their lives in playgrounds,
Spent the years inventing games
that don’t let me in. Games that are rough,
that swallow you up.
And the railings.
All around, the railings. Are they to keep over wolves and monsters?
Things that carry off and eat children?
Things you don’t take sweets from?
Perhaps they’re to stop us getting out
Running away from the lesson,

The child is many miles away from home, waiting for the bell to ring to go. He wonders where he needs to go when the bell rings. The child questions why the other children are so big and noisy. They seem to fit in so well at school that they must have been born in uniform and have lived their whole life in playgrounds.

They must have spent the years inventing games that the new child does not know about. These games are rough and swallow you up. And all around the school there are the railings. The new kid wonders if they are there to keep away wolves and monsters, things that carry off and eat children, things one shouldn’t take sweets from because they are dangerous. Or perhaps the railings are there to stop the children from getting out and running away from the lesson.

Line 16- 26

What does a lesson look like?
Sound small and slimy.
They keep them in classrooms,
Whole rooms made out of glass. Imagine.
I wish I could remember my name.
Mummy said it would come in useful,
Like wellies. When there’s puddles.
Yellow wellies. I wish she was here.
I think my name is sewn on somewhere
Perhaps the teacher will read it for me.
Teacher, The one who makes tea.

The child now wonders what a lesson looks like. He does not actually know what a lesson is, so he thinks it is some kind of creature. He says it sounds small and slimy. He says they keep these lessons in classrooms, which the kid mistakes as whole rooms made out of glass. He wishes he could remember his name, because his mummy said it would be of use, just like rubber boots are.

The child gets distracted and starts talking about puddles and yellow rubber boots. He wishes his mother were there with him. He thinks his name is sewn on somewhere, so perhaps the teacher will read it for him. He thinks that the teacher is someone who makes tea.