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.
They 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.
'Come 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.'
I’d read that using an anticipatory ‘thanks’ was a powerful psychological tool to lull pupils into instant and willing compliance.
But maybe not on Fridays.
Within two minutes of his arrival, Scott had to be ejected from the lesson.
'What d'you do that for?' Randall had swung round to face Scott, clasping his shoulder.
I'd managed three words of my introduction to the lesson's activities. ('First, I'd like -).
'Do what?' I asked Randall.
He shook his dyed-black, shaggy hair as if in shock. 'He's stabbed me in the back!'
I hadn't seen anything. 'Er - metaphorically or physically?'
His forehead creased. 'I mean, with a compass.'
'I 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.'
I walked over, ordering 10A meanwhile to turn to Act 3 Scene 1 and find Macbeth's speech about Banquo, thanks.
Instead, 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.'
Randall 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.
The 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.
'That's harsh, Miss,' he said. 'Don't expect an invitation when I win a Brit award, that's all I'm saying.'
'Don't bother sending one,' I told him. 'The last time I wore a sparkly posh dress, someone mistook me for a disco ball.'
Now, 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.
Scott had begun packing his bag, muttering.
I 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.
'Shall I get a plaster from Reception?' said Randall. He didn't sound upset about having been pierced.
The rest of 10A were still rubber-necking. Someone breathed, 'It's like Waterloo Road!'
'Sit DOWN,' I said to them. 'Yes, Randall. You won’t need a big plaster. I don't think he hit an artery.'
'Come on, Scott,' Randall said, turning round, as cheerful as a fresh lick of paint. 'I'll walk with you.'
'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.
'S'okay, Miss,' Randall said. 'We play footie together on Sunday mornings.'
'Yeah,' said Scott.
Someone called out, ‘They’ve been mates since Juniors, Miss.'
'I don't care if they're conjoined twins,' I said. 'Scott, get going. You can write an apology to Randall while you're there.'
Scott mooched out of the room, dragging his rucksack behind him and saying, 'Write one? I can Snapchat him.'
Three seconds later, Randall said, 'Can I go to Reception now?'
'But what if I bleed to death?'
'Miss, you have to press on him hard with a clean cloth,' said Timmy. 'And if his lips go blue -'
'Thank you, Timmy.'
I 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.'
'Okay, 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.
'Right!' 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.
Eventually, the class settled down to analysing the language of Macbeth's speech.
Ten minutes in, Randall came back, reporting that he'd been given a plaster and that Scott had reached the supervision room safely.
'How do you know?' I said.
He began to pull the shirt off his shoulder again. 'Here it –'
'No,' I said, stopping him before the girls abandoned literary analysis for Randall's musculature. 'How do you know Scott got there?'
'I popped in,' he said. 'Look. He gave me my apology letter.'
'What 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.'
I 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|
Love, love, love this! So funny and clearly believable. Can't wait for the new book 🙂ReplyDelete
I can't wait either :) Thanks for reading, Mrs J. I'm glad you enjoyed it. xxDelete
Very amusing! Kids are an endless source of drama, aren't they!ReplyDelete
Put it this way, I think I'm in the right profession for a constant stream of ideas ... ;) Thanks for reading and commenting, Debra.Delete
I loved this; I want to read the whole book!!ReplyDelete
Fishducky, that's so nice to know! The forthcoming book shouldn't disappoint you if you liked this extract from the non-forthcoming one ;) And have you read 'Being Miss', my first one? That's very much in the same vein!Delete
I read it & I loved it!!Delete
Boys will be boys, even when they are almost men.ReplyDelete
Indeed! A wise comment!Delete
Reminds me of the lad who was doing everything he could to get me to send him out of the room, and I wouldn't give in. First he said he needed to go back to his form room to fetch something he'd forgotten. Then he said he felt unwell and needed to go to medical. Then he said he needed to go and speak to his head of year. Then he announced that he was going to mess about until I had to send for a senior teacher to remove him so I could carry on the lesson, to which I replied I wouldn't only refuse to send him out, I would keep him in all of break time too. Finally, he leaned over, took out of his bag the most enormous cigar and a box of matches, lit up and proceeded to smoke it in the middle of the classroom, at which point I really did have to send for senior staff and have him removed! I think that lad will go far. Either that or to jail.ReplyDelete
I so enjoyed that account! I think I may even have taught the same boy!! The cigar is a genius touch.Delete
Is that what kids in classrooms are like now? Thank God I'm no longer a student and never opted to be a teacher lol.ReplyDelete
Not all of them, OSC, and even the ones who are like that are still a great source of entertainment .... and stories for books ...Delete
I so enjoyed this! Kids :) I think you really have to love them to be a good teacher.ReplyDelete
My mom taught Grade Nine for most of her career - I don't know what the equivalent would be there, but these kids would be about 14-15 years old, some still children, others well on the way to adulthood. She still talks about it nearly every time I see her or talk on the phone with her. She just really loved them. All grown up with children and grandchildren of their own now, they will come up to her in the mall or at the McDonalds and give her a big hug!
I do find them hugely entertaining, Jenny, especially these days now I've got over the idea that their misdemeanours are personally addressed to me. And, yes, I do now meet those I have taught, and who caused mutiny and chaos in my lessons even, and we have a pleasant conversation as though none of it ever happened!Delete
Lovely! And familiar, though happily no one stabbed anyone else in any of my classes. (But is "slidden" a Warwickshire word?)ReplyDelete
You know, I was so conflicted over 'slid' and 'slidden'. 'Slidden' sounded right to me and when I asked Auntie Google, she said it was an acceptable, although archaic, usage. So I stuck with it. I would say, for instance, 'She has slidden on the ice' or 'She had slidden down and hurt herself' but I'd say 'She slid on the ice'. Something to do with the verb construction, then, using the auxiliary, maybe? *gets tied up in rusty grammatical terminology*Delete
Those kids aren't nearly as bad as the ones I taught. Keep writing, thanks.ReplyDelete
My word, Janie. You must have some stories, too, then!Delete