There's 438 of them.
Some are whispering and others are staring blankly in obedience with their eyes up front but their minds are clearly elsewhere. All are fidgeting.
An hour has rolled by. Slowly. The morning sun is shining directly into the school children's eyes and the PA system has died. I'm so nervous about getting up to speak that the BBQ tongs in my right hand are starting to clatter.
A father is up on stage, trying his hardest to make himself heard via a megaphone that still has cobwebs clinging to it after being dug up from the sports shed. "You see, kids, at my workplace - a restaurant - we too have to show responsibility like you do. If there's a bit of tomato left on a plate that's not washed off and then my chef serves food on it....."
My bottom is being patted, ever so gently. I turn around and see my little friend Patrick, holding a battered VB carton. "HELLO KATH, I JUST GOT THIS AND HAVE FOUND SOME FEATHERS TO PUT IN IT."
I cringe slightly and kneel down to his face level: "That's nice sweetie. Can you whisper?"
"OF COURSE I CAN, KATH. WHAT ARE YOU DOING HERE TODAY?"
His mother, Amy, scoops him up as he cheerfully waves goodbye to me.
My shoulder is patted this time, so I assume it's an adult with a clearer understanding of personal space. I'm correct. Brendan the PE teacher mouths, 'You're ON' and points towards the stage.
I know exactly where Sapphire is sitting and as I clear my throat to start, I can see, in the fog of nerves and flop sweat, that she is now covering her face in embarassment.
My vision blurs, my hand grips the ancient grey plastic mouthpiece with the connected stretchy-curly telephone cord that requires me to lean slightly towards the left and I blather away nervously, vaguely hoping that I can be heard clearly by the teachers and by the disinterested parents standing way up in the back beyond the railway-sleeper-constructed ampitheatre under the peppercorn trees---
----my BBQ tongs are brandished at some stage as my nerves ramp up to heart-attack level and I realise that there's no stopping this eye-poppingly ill-prepared ramble and the 438 children blur into a kaleidoscope of blue and green that allows the wriggling, sighing and chattering to fade out and stop affecting my presentation -----
---- but I'm aware that my right knee is shaking and the rhythm perfectly matches the quaver in my endlessly wittering voice so I decide it's time to conclude and I had the speaker back to the Principal and dash over to the ill-favoured privacy offered by a strugglinng melaleuca.
A few deep breaths and brow wipes later and Sapphire is tugging at my sleeve.
I refocus. "Yes, love? That wasn't too bad, was it?"
"You said 'SEXY' in your talk!"
A blush creeps up on my face. "I did? Are you sure?"
"Yes," she hissed, blue eyes burning. "You said, 'Some people think that picking up rubbish isn't very sexy' and then went on to say how it's still a worthwhile thing to do---"
I interrupt, my delayed sense of pomposity starting to wake up. "Well, it is a worthwhile thing to do, and---"
Sapphire holds up her hand. "I know, Mum. But you said 'sexy' and there are---" she looks around to check that no-one's nearby "----- little kids here."
She stalks off to join her departing classmates before I can say "See you after school," so I walk back home, tongs now hanging limply by my side, t-shirt showing two unbecoming armpit sweat stains and I'm harbouring a fervent desire to not make eye contact with the principal.
My waist is tapped, so I assume it's a school-aged child this time.
Seven year old Alifah smiles at me, a child I chat to every day after school at the side gate as I wait for Sapphire and she waits for her mother.
"You were funny and a little bit crazy," she said.
"Er thanks Alifah. I was very nervous and hope that I wasn't too rude or hard to understand."
"Oh no," she assured me. "I've always thought you were funny and a little bit crazy."