Diary - My worst parent - My duel with Jules

23rd October 2009 at 01:00

Some pupils are not exactly un-cooperative or troublesome, but simply intimidating in their easy assumption of superiority.

They have a quiet authority and an unspoken contempt for you which unnerve you and dominate your week. Jules was one such pupil. He also tended to make mildly racist remarks which, deftly oblique, neatly finessed the school's anti-racist policy.

Nevertheless, I decided to proceed with a piece of work about an Asian girl, based on a story called Pushy's Pimples. This was too much for Jules and, with uncharacteristic lack of subtlety, he demanded: "Why are we reading a story about a Paki?"

I asked Jules to leave the class and spoke to him afterwards. The upshot was that he was moved to another class. I deluded myself that I would have done the same with any other pupil, but naturally felt joyous relief. I had forgotten that parents' evening was due the next week.

Jules and his mother were last up (had she arranged this to prolong the dread?). She had, if anything, an even more malign, formidable demeanour than Jules.

I gave as flattering an account of Jules as possible before we got down to the crux of the matter. She assured me that she was not racist; her neighbour was Asian, her employer was Jewish.

Mesmerised and dry-mouthed, I said "good" and tried to conclude the ordeal by saying that as well as the racist comments, there was also the fact that Jules and I just did not get on. I was sure that he would do better with his new teacher.

Reflectively, Jules' mother passed sentence. "Actually, I'm not surprised Jules doesn't like you."

Abandoning mental self-preservation, I replied: "Why is that?"

"Because I don't like you myself."

I flinched and grinned, professionally. Jules leered, vindicated. They left, victorious.

The writer is an English teacher in Leicester.

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