Bestworst lesson

2nd February 2007 at 00:00
Best It was 1.30am on a hillside on the uninhabited Hebridean island of Lunga. My A-level biology group was on marine ecology fieldwork and had stayed up late listening for the return of Manx shearwaters to their nest burrows.

The birds would circle the island making eerie calls, rather like a human baby crying. The calls would stop and we would hear a flop and a quick scuffle as a bird landed and disappeared under ground.

They were all too fast for us and we were getting a bit frustrated at our lack of success in seeing them.

Robert - Mr Cool - had walked off a few yards from the group. I had seen him and knew the whole thing was not for him. I assumed he had only come on the trip for the week off school and the company of the girls.

Then I heard Robert's quavering, strangled voice. He was trying to shout and whisper at the same time.

All of his teenage angst had gone in a second and it was like he was seven years old again, opening his Christmas presents. "Sir, there is one 'ere, right on t'edge of t'burrow," he said.

I picked up the bird, feeling its incredible warmth, and handed it over to Robert for a second before we watched it shuffle home.

Robert is a colonel in the Royal Marines now. I see him occasionally and I know he has never forgotten that trip. I know I never will

Worst Sharon's name was on the class list I dutifully called out each week, but she was never there. I was engrossed with a group of pupils one day when the door burst open and a Catherine Tate figure swaggered in.

"Sir, it's Sharon" said a pupil, gleefully and expectantly looking at me to see what would happen next.

I said:"Oh, so you're Sharon. Could you come and talk to me for a moment please? Sharon?, Sharon, could you come here a moment please?"

Sharon broke off the conversation she had just started and slowly turned her head, chew-ing all the time, to look straight through me. "Fuck off,"

she said.

During the distraction two boys had started fighting and one, Ryan, had to be physically restrained. I could not control him and the commotion brought help from next door, in the person of the photocopier repair man.

He grabbed an arm and then a candidate for the maths post, who had been waiting in the office to be interviewed, came and grabbed the other arm.

Ryan was pinned down, his arms were flapping like guy ropes in a gale, but he managed to raise his head sharply and nut me under the chin, drawing blood. By now it was lunchtime and the school was closed in the afternoon for a staff conference, so I had time to draw breath.

The local authority officer who arrived to investigate this "assault on a member of staff" became alarmed on seeing the school empty - he thought the staff had all downed tools in solidarity. In fact, we were in the library, listening to a presentation on Every Child Matters

Richard Clubley taught in Sheffield

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