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Promised riches

Young Barry had been winding me up for the best part of a fortnight. It wasn't the poor quality of his work which was getting to me so much as the way he was sabotaging the class in general, and his classmate Duncan in particular.

When you've tried to teach English to Barry in Year 9 - and now Year 10 - you come to understand that learning is not his main reason for coming to school. It is an alternative form of entertainent - when the streets get boring, and baiting teachers is a social sport.

So it came to the lunchtime bell and, being on report, he whipped the paper out for my comment.

"You should have given me this at the start of the lesson, not now."

"I forgot."

"Okay, well, I'll take that into consideration as well as your behaviour and you can have an 'E'."

"An 'E'?" he yelled with outrage.

"That's all you deserve and that's all you're getting."

I could see that his temper was almost at breaking point. He was thinking of the worst possible non-physical blow he could inflict.

"That's it, then. I'm not coming to any more English lessons."

He paused then to study my face.

"Is that a promise and will you keep to it?" I asked. "My lessons are much more enjoyable when you don't come. Let's face it, I won't miss you and you won't miss me."

He could not believe what he was hearing. Everything in his so-called education had told him that teachers want you to come to school and playing truant was a way of seriously offending them. Now here was a teacher telling him to get lost. The weapon he held had turned into a soggy sponge.

"And if you do break your promise and come to my lessons, you're not to sit beside Duncan again - ever."

"Why not?" "Because you can throw away your own education, but you're not going to wreck his."

As he left the classroom I heard him muttering - between profanities - something about me not giving a toss about him 'nicking off'. Barry was patently appalled at the irresponsibility of teachers today.

The writer is a teacher in the north-east.

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