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Monday, 1 December 2014

Reasons why one should think carefully before flouncing out

I ran away from home when I was seven. We were living in Singapore because my father, who was in the army, was stationed there. I can't remember what the row had been about, but I decided it was time to seek my fortune elsewhere, yelled, 'That's it! You are all dead to me!' and left the house.

Five minutes later, I was back. I'd forgotten to take shoes and the Singapore pavements, in equatorial temperatures, had me hopping from paving slab to paving slab, my little feet toasted.

Oh, the ignominy of it all, when you make a dramatic exit and then have to slink back.

Years later, when I should have been wiser about the dramatic exit and its potential for humiliation, I argued with my husband. We were young parents, new to it. We'd never argued until we had our first child, and then suddenly there seemed to be all kinds of things about which to fight. Whose turn was it to change the nappy? Whose turn to fill up the steriliser? Whose turn to burp the baby even though the re-emergence of half a pint of curdled milk into one's lap was as inevitable as time passing?

Whatever the cause of the argument, I decided to have the last word, said, 'That's it! You are all dead to me!' (originality not being my strong point) and made a flourish of an exit out of the kitchen door and into the garden. I intended to leave by the back gate. Where to go, I wasn't sure, but who thinks about that before flouncing out?

The gate was locked, and I knew my husband had the key to the padlock in his pocket.

I came back in, pretending confidence. 'I need the key to the back gate,' I said, taking refuge in monosyllables as an attempt to sound determined. I tried to hold on to my pride, but I may as well have tried to clutch on to escaping ferrets.

My husband fought against laughter, but lost, and although I bit my lip, it wasn't long before I joined in.

It was just as well, anyway. I was at that early stage of motherhood when after three hours away from the baby, my milk would start to come in, leaking from my body and spreading across my chest like an oil spill. It's not a good look, particularly when you're attempting to play the part of a romantic, passionate escapee.

Only once have I walked out of a lesson. I was a rookie teacher and the class of boys had led me to a Place of Despair with their riotous chatter and shameless lack of interest in my carefully-planned lesson on Robert Browning's use of the dramatic monologue. This time, I didn't say, 'That's it! You are all dead to me.'  (I needed the job.)  I just left the room, one nano-second before I dissolved into tears. But they'd seen me crumbling. As I walked down the corridor towards the English Department and some privacy, I heard one boy - a boy with heart - shout, 'Now look what you've all done, you wankers!'

Half an hour later I returned, my eyes no doubt red-rimmed. The boys had finished the work and stacked their books neatly on my desk. They were sitting meekly, awaiting the bell. Their faces said, 'Oops. Maybe we went too far.'  It was the apology I needed. And they were much better behaved after that.

It was the one out of my three exits that had a positive outcome, not just for me, but for the boy with heart, to whom I gave a shedload of merit points and help with his poetry terms any time he wanted it.

Benedict Cumberbatch as Sherlock Holmes, making his own version of a dramatic exit.
(No back door key required.)





29 comments:

  1. Thanks, Fran, I think your posts should come with a health warning - that third incident brings back some painful memories!

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    1. Gah, sorry! It's not exactly a happy memory for me either, and I've been very near doing exactly the same thing many times. I've just managed to hold on!

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  2. So that's how I should have handled unruly classes. I used a stuffed animal to play catch with them (high school students) instead of doing the lesson. No wonder I'm not a teacher.

    Love,
    Janie

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    1. I love your stuffed animal method. Strangely, Ofsted haven't recommended that one!

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  3. I don't think crying would work for me. I'm an ugly crier.

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    1. Ha, me too! I always look as though I've got flu.

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  4. Just one high school boy brought me to tears while I was "practice teaching." Made me decided I had no business trying to teach when I couldn't handle the bully. Very painful to remember.

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    1. I'm sure every newbie teacher has had that experience. It's taken me ten years to learn not to take it personally. And I've used up a fair few packets of Kleenex on that particular learning curve.

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  5. Sometimes, it's ok to let people know that they have gone too far. I used to have a boss who would bully sometimes. On one particularly bad occasion I just had to leave the room - like you on the verge of tears - and then I just kept walking out of the door and towards home. I was caught up by a staff member but my obvious distress had galvanised another director who apologised for not speaking up for me and disciplined my boss. I was mortified at my weakness at the time but the outcome was much better than expected

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    1. I think you're absolutely right. People have to know they've hurt you and that you're human. You did exactly the right thing.

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  6. Aren't teenage boys just adorable? I used to teach RE so the first question posed, almost every lesson was, "why do we have to do this?" Oh, do I have some corkers for answers :) Well, I knew I'd gained some respect when one of my cherubs decided the back window of my car needed seeing to and hurled a house brick through it. Obviously being a new teacher (20 years ago) I took the whole thing seriously. They hated me!! Boo hoo!! BUT, that particular boy came up to me with a 50 pound note (for the excess) and an apology. "I'm really sorry, Miss. I wasn't aiming at your car, I was aiming at that kids head." Thank goodness my car wore the brunt of his despair.

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    1. No!! I wonder how you replied to that!

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  7. Oh , that's what you're supposed to do !
    I just tend to sit like a malevolent toad , sulking . It doesn't really help clear the air , somehow .

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    1. No? You do surprise me!!

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  8. Oh dear, memories.... maths teacher Mrs T, who said, 'I'm going to stand outside the door, now. When you think you can behave, fetch me back in.' Oh, the agony.

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    1. I am definitely going to use that line. Brilliant.

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  9. I wonder if my previous comment got through? It said "publishing" and then seemed to vanish. This is just an experiment. I may try reprising my comment when I see what happens to this one. I'm sure you can't wait.

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    1. Hm .. I think this proves that your previous comment didn't get through, Isabelle. It's not in my 'unpublished comments' list either. Sorry!

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    2. Just thinking ... you didn't flounce out just before posting the comment, did you?...

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  10. No, no flouncing. I shall try again. Ready?

    I admire (I said) your turn of phrase when you were seven. It reminds me of the small granddaughter of a friend of Joyce Grenfell who wrote, "My life is a bane if I do not get a purpull velvitt frock." I imagine your spelling was better.

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    1. Actually, at the age of seven I'm not sure my spelling was better. But I could spell soliloquy at nine, which isn't bad going. It was my party piece in English lessons.

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  11. I threatened to leave home once and was completely deflated when my mum yelled back that she would happily pack my case for me!

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    1. Ha ha! That's cruel - and as you say so deflating! It reminds me - my Granddad always used to say to me if he heard me singing, 'Can you sing over the hill and far away?' It was years before I realised it wasn't the name of a song.

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    2. Well, it is the name of a song as well. Maybe he meant it...

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  12. 'Now look what you've all done, you wankers!' is the clarion call of the true hero.

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    1. Superman should take note.

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  13. hurrah for that one boy - that took some doing.

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    1. Indeed. He was one of a kind.

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