Friday's child

19th February 1999 at 00:00
David Thomas on what it's like to be...naughty

Damien's naughtiness began in the infants. With an eff off here, and an eff off there, here an eff, there an eff, everywhere an eff off. And then, with a glance of angelic innocence at his teacher, his reign of terror began.

It was the biting of people's ankles in assemblies that made us really sit up and take notice. That, followed by the doggy noises, began to set him apart. This was odd behaviour, we thought, even for Tetley bitter country, and we fondly labelled him the kid from hell.

The first time he absconded it was to sit up on a shed roof in the school playground.

"It's going to rain," I said. "He'll soon come down."

It did rain. He did come down. And then scarpered off home.

As his naughtiness escalated, we enrolled the help of an education welfare officer, who claimed to have a 100 per cent success rate in such cases.

The well-known technique of Time Out Facing a Blank Wall in a Draughty Corridor failed when, after one blank wall too many, the kid from hell ran back to the classroom hammering on the door demanding to be let back in. To me this was a success, but the expert said otherwise. The teacher was then told to shout "Go away, go away" from behind the classroom door. This Damien promptly did - all the way back home.

None of this would have been too bad except that a neighbouring college had a student videoing a PE lesson in the hall, who recorded Damien sitting on top of the piano, Damien kicking a classroom door and Damien pulling coat pegs off the wall.

The EWO's behaviour modification programme was dropped. The only behaviour modified was that of Damien's classroom assistant minder, who took to wearing shin pads, and of his classmates, who learned to duck, dodge and dive every time the hoofed one threw a rubber or a pencil at them.

The kid from hell had many days' absence from school. His favourite tricks included riding his bicycle and doing wheelies on the road outside, taunting me. Or, better for me, doing his wheelies outside my pal Stewart's school, half a mile away.

"What are you doing here?" Stewart thundered at him one day. "Go back to your own school and be naughty."

"Can't," replied the beaming lad, "I'm effing expended."

Evidence that this lad was indeed Satan's spawn came shortly before I retired when he blacked out half his street. While the electricity board had been doing repairs, Damien had acquired a pair of bolt cutters and cut through a cable. To this day only he and Beelzebub know how he survived.

In my final week as head there was a call from the police.

"Got a lad here called Damien. Caught him jumping out in front of cars. Lucky to be alive," said the PC.

"He's indestructible," I said. "Offend him not, lest he zaps you with a bolt of lightning."

"Just plain naughty, if you ask me," said the Bill. "And a bloody good hiding would soon stop it."

Alas, that's true, I thought, but those days are long gone.

David Thomas is a former headteacher from Leeds

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