Don't laugh, it could be you

31st October 1997 at 00:00
John Muir's collections of Classroom Clangers have appeared in The TES Scotland as well as being published in book form. My own favourite, which I have sent him, concerns a colleague who was being quizzed by his Standard grade science class. The conversation went something like this: "Sir, are you brainy?" "I suppose so."

"How brainy?" "Well, only 2 per cent of the population have the same sort of qualification that I have."

"Whit dis that mean?" "If you had 100, only two would get the same sort of university degree as I have."

"Who wis the other guy?" Perhaps John Muir should produce a book of teachers' clangers. We can dip into it when we are low and need to feel superior to somebody. My mother taught beside the worst nursery nurse ever, who used to threaten that she would "poke yur teddy's eyes oot . . ." to children who were not playing along.

One day she did hit it off by bringing in a large emu puppet and using it to tell a story. The next day she was plagued by four-year-olds asking: "Where's the emu? Where's your bird? After only a short time this proved too much and the nurse turned on a hapless interrogator yelling: "IT'S DEED, RIGHT? IT GOAT KNOCKED DOON BY A BLUDDY MOATUR!" Rampant sobbing.

For my own part, I am most likely to be deflated when I try to be clever. For years I performed an experiment where I three-quarters filled a gas jar with water, placed a piece of paper over its end and inverted it. Pupils enjoyed seeing the water remain in the jar as the paper was held in place by air pressure. They enjoyed it even more the year I got cocky and announced that I could hold the jar above my head all day without getting wet. I couldn't and the class members still cite my soaking as their favourite science demonstration.

I was also asking for it when, rather than simply telling the class canary to stop whistling while he worked, I had to add: "You're not one of the seven dwarfs." An anonymous voice told me: "Aye, you'd be Grumpy."

At least I knew when I was beaten. It is indeed an uplifting sight to see a colleague dig themself in deeper and deeper in an attempt to spin out a put-down. Picture this: A first year is stopped in the playground.

"What are you doing, son?" "Going to the office."

"Is that how you talk to a teacher?" "Eh?" "I'll give you a clue. The word has three letters? Begins with S?" "Sam?" The same teacher once told a lazy pupil who would not leave his classmates in peace: "I'm going to move you to do something you can only do on your own." The boy looked puzzled in an insolent sort of way so the teacher added: "I'm talking about a four letter word beginning with W and ending in K."

The pupil began to grin gleefully as the false dawn of misunderstanding warmed his face. "WORK!" barked the hapless educator as weeks of hard-won credibility flew out the window. And were the rest of us sympathetic when we heard this tale? Of course not. We rolled around on the staffroom floor clutching our sides, slapping our thighs all the harder because it happened to somebody else.

Gregor Steele Gregor Steele's secret fear is trapping his tie in a dot matrix printer in front of a class.

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