Thursday, June 30, 2011


I had some odd teachers. I remember sneezing once, as I was leaving a class, and seeing the teacher wheel round and bellow ‘Who did that?’ I hesitantly put up my hand and he came slowly over to me, stood above me, and snarled ‘If you do that again I’ll make you dress and undress in front of the class six times.’ I remember my feelings moving slowly from fear to puzzlement. Dress and undress? Six times? Are you sure that’s what you meant to say? Many of them tended to fly into tempers very easily, as if they lived always on the edge of some nameless rage. You could watch the progression, if you’d said or done something you shouldn’t have. The pause as the teacher’s eyes slowly focus on you, the wounded look developing on his face, he seems to wince, his head sinks briefly into his hands as the enormity of your crime sinks in, the words start quietly, 'You think it’s funny ...’ He’s shaking his head, in all his years of teaching he’s seen nothing like you, and now the volume is rising, he’s working himself up, the colour is entering his cheeks, and you can see him taking a breath ready to roar. Some of them loved a little drama, the petty exercise of power.

Teachers at my school were subject to depression and suicide. Being fairly bright, and keeping a fairly low profile, I mostly got on with them. Looking back, I raise my eyebrows a little when I remember the odd one who had a tickling fight with me, an angel-faced eight year old, when I was in my gym kit. You wouldn’t get away with that these days, but I’m sure I enjoyed it, was flattered by the attention. My only problem was that, being scared of their tempers, I was too keen to please them, so for a couple of pre-O level years I would often copy the work of the boy sitting next to me who, by an alphabetical fluke, was the cleverest boy in the year. This would have been all right, but I was never very subtle about it, and we often seemed to get the same mark in tests, which was embarrassing. Happiest years of my life? No, not even close.

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