I am not usually obstanat but I protest to being like a monkey in a cage I Hate losing My P.E. but I can not stand Having to Writ a an S.A. Im fed up and can not stand any mor

Another fragment from the distant past, 1967, my first year of teaching. It’s still there somewhere in my mind, a tiny voice of a matchless personal dignity: what can one do? In an ideal world one would offer this bloke a drink and say how sorry one was. But it aint ideal.

Another lad in the same lesson (I imagine they were aged 11 or 12) wrote about one of his friends.


Andrew is a theif and he smokes and my mum told me not to play with him but I still do. Andrews hobbies are robbing Nicking and theifing. His father was a gangster you might have seen him on the pictures his name is Alcopne His Mother was also a gangster her name was Bonnie Parker and his brother was Jack the ripper he was so clever that the police could not catch me. And his grandmother was machine gun Lil.

I don’t think I ever knew who Andrew was but he was certainly a fellow worth identifying with. An epic crew, a family for the ages. I must have told the class to write an essay about somebody they knew, an ill-advised topic no doubt. In any case it brings it all back, that first chaotic year, that sense of being driven backward by the tide, of just about keeping one’s head clear of the wreckage, of finding one’s feet occasionally on a sandbank and learning what a holiday really was.

But I also learnt something about children, which maybe was the first step to becoming a “techer” and not entirely and utterly – as I was then for the opening writer – a pariah, beyond the pale. In the current discussion of ways to make up educational ground lost in the pandemic the air is laced with a kind of shocked pound-sign earnestness. But basically all that matters is that children don’t mind too much being in your class. It’s half the battle. Which means – let techers be techers.

I once knew an art teacher at a boys’ secondary school who couldn’t understand how one of his colleagues, who taught Maths, achieved the terrific results he did, especially considering the mad torrents of noise from his classroom. So my friend crept along the corridor one lesson till he was outside that classroom, with his head below the level of the window in the door. Peering up he saw it all. The blackboard was divided into two halves, on the left a chalk drawing of a beautiful woman’s face with luscious red lips, on the right her backside. When a boy solved a problem correctly he was called to the board and indicated to kiss the lips on the left. If wrong he had no choice but to similarly salute the drawing on the right. The boys learnt Maths.

In my career I may not have consistently offended against the shibboleths of political correctness as much as did this teacher, but I did not exactly tick the right boxes (and that’s another story). All I would say to the powers that be, in a profession to do with individuals, is – don’t stamp on individuality. Let techers be techers.

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