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Reasons why teachers might look forward to weekends and holidays ...
This is a scene from a novel I hoped to get published. But I've moved on now and am writing another book which will be published in 2020. Watch this space!
I really like the scene, though. So I thought I'd let you read it, rather than having it fester on my laptop.
Enjoy! It's very much based on my personal experience, and it's a scene that's played out in real life in many, many classrooms across the country. And perhaps the world.
Setting: a secondary school classroom, England. Friday afternoon.
Characters: an English teacher and her class
The pupils, as they did every
week at this time, drifted from all corners of the school, in spits and spots
like a gradual, hesitant build-up of rain.
seemed weary, as did their end-of-the-week uniforms, which drooped and slouched
on their bodies as if drained of life.Indeed, some of their blazers had died and slidden off their bodies like
thin corpses, hanging now from the ends of their fingers. Several pupils had
risked replacing blazers with hoodies, including Scott. I made them stay
outside the room until they'd reversed the process.
on, Year 10,' I said to the rest, as they trailed in. I feigned energy in my
voice. 'Smarten up, thanks. Ties, blazers, shirts, thanks. The skirt, thanks.
Stop rolling it up at the waist. Thanks.'
read that using an anticipatory ‘thanks’ was a powerful psychological tool to
lull pupils into instant and willing compliance.
maybe not on Fridays.
Within two minutes of his arrival, Scott had to be ejected from the lesson.
d'you do that for?' Randall had swung round to face Scott, clasping his
managed three words of my introduction to the lesson's activities. ('First, I'd
what?' I asked Randall.
shook his dyed-black, shaggy hair as if in shock. 'He's stabbed me in the back!'
hadn't seen anything. 'Er - metaphorically or physically?'
forehead creased.'I mean, with a
didn't mean to hurt him,' Scott said,
pugnacious.'I only prodded him. I asked
if I could borrow a pen and he wasn't listening.'
walked over, ordering 10A meanwhile to turn to Act 3 Scene 1 and find Macbeth's
speech about Banquo, thanks.
they all gaped as Randall slipped off his blazer and undid two shirt buttons to
reveal a bead of blood on his shoulder blade.'Ooh,' said one girl, which seemed less 'Ooh, look at that injury' and
more 'Ooh, look at that shoulder.'
was a popular boy anyway, a talented singer who astonished us at school
concerts and who sang like others breathed, often interrupting lessons with
tunes as we worked. Much of his repertoire was pre-1970s: 'I live with Grandad.
It's his fault,’ he’d tell us. But it differentiated him from the wannabe rappers
in the school, convinced they were a threat to Jay Z.
previous week, I'd suggested that the class could get a 'little help from
friends' with the work, and for half an hour Randall ran us through the Sergeant Pepper playlist. In the end, I
wrote his name on the board and threatened a detention.
harsh, Miss,' he said. 'Don't expect an invitation when I win a Brit award,
that's all I'm saying.'
bother sending one,' I told him. 'The last time I wore a sparkly posh dress,
someone mistook me for a disco ball.'
I had no option but to order Scott to the ‘supervision’ room where a teacher on
duty would receive him. I’d have to write an incident report. Something else
for the to-do list.
had begun packing his bag, muttering.
put out my hand.'The compass, please.'He took it from his trouser pocket, looked as
though he'd slap it into my hand, then clearly thought again.
I get a plaster from Reception?' said Randall.He didn't sound upset about having been pierced.
rest of 10A were still rubber-necking. Someone breathed, 'It's like Waterloo
DOWN,' I said to them.'Yes,
Randall.You won’t need a big plaster. I
don't think he hit an artery.'
on, Scott,' Randall said, turning round, as cheerful as a fresh lick of paint.'I'll walk with you.'
will not,' I said, going back to my
desk.'Scott has just made a hole in you
without permission.You go first,
Scott.I'll let Reception know you're
coming.Take this work with you.'I gave him a worksheet from my ‘Emergencies’
file. 'And you’ll need this,' I said, passing him a pen.
Miss,' Randall said.'We play footie
together on Sunday mornings.'
Someone called out, ‘They’ve been mates since Juniors, Miss.'
don't care if they're conjoined twins,' I said.'Scott, get going.You can write
an apology to Randall while you're there.'
mooched out of the room, dragging his rucksack behind him and saying, 'Write one?I can Snapchat him.'
seconds later, Randall said, 'Can I go to Reception now?'
what if I bleed to death?'
you have to press on him hard with a clean cloth,' said Timmy.'And if his lips go blue -'
let Randall go after a minute.'When you
get to Reception,' I said, 'can you tell them that Scott should have arrived in
supervision? Then come straight back here when you've got a plaster.'
Miss,' he said, and left, clutching his shoulder like a war hero.I swear he limped.Some of the girls' faces were pink with hope.
I said. 'Back to Act 3 Scene 1.' I nearly added, 'Someone else who goes round
stabbing people for no reason,' but stopped myself just in time. As I often
told pupils, just because you think it doesn’t mean you should risk saying it.
the class settled down to analysing the language of Macbeth's speech.
minutes in, Randall came back, reporting that he'd been given a plaster and
that Scott had reached the supervision room safely.
do you know?' I said.
began to pull the shirt off his shoulder again. 'Here it –'
I said, stopping him before the girls abandoned literary analysis for Randall's
musculature.'How do you know Scott got
popped in,' he said.'Look. He gave me
my apology letter.'
do you mean, you popped in?' I said. 'It's the supervision room, not a drop-in
social club. And I told you to come straight back.'
unfurled a piece of paper, torn out of Scott's exercise book.On the top line was the word 'soz' and a
smiley face. Under that, a passable illustration of a dagger.
The days when no one turned up, she felt like a FANTASTIC teacher
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