FROM time to time, I have a stab at fulfilling an ambition to have a book published. Most recently, I have been working on a children's book about part-time superheroes and alien abductions. Well, you know what they say:
"Write about what you know."
One of my earlier attempts was an account of my training year, called All Teachers Great and Small. The other day, following an evening out with one of my best friends of that era, I read part of it and reminded myself of my first solo lesson with a science class. Aye, what a beamer that was.
I began with an embarrassingly ill-conceived OHP cartoon as an attempt at levity. Sam, a sharp-nosed, semi-nerd who looked like a prepubescent Kenneth Williams auditioning for a part in Carry On Being A Complete Pain In The Arse led the fake laughter. I had been told that he loved going out on his family's fishing boats. Perhaps that was why he laughed like a seal.
"Eurk! Eurk! Eurk!" "Stop that!" I snapped.
"I was only laughin' at your drawing," my tormentor protested.
"Can't help laughing." His nose was like an RKO radio mast radiating insolence.
It was the year that they banned the belt. I'd heard a technical teacher claiming he had got away with hitting a boy with a piece of wood by pretending that he was merely passing it to the kid who "hadn't been paying attention". I wondered briefly if I could contrive to shut Sam's beak in a large book.
The lesson was about carbonates. I managed a couple of statements on the subject before the next interruption in the form of four girls who were whispering. "You!" I said to one of them."What was the last thing I said?" "It was about carbonates," she replied smugly, as if to say: "You won't catch me not listening."
"Eurk! Eurk! Eurk!" "Sam! Stop that laughing!" "Can't help laughing!" he sneered in a tone of distilled derision.
"DON'T TALK TO ME LIKE TH . . ." - and then my voice, ill-used to being raised, played its cruellest trick on the male teacher and went squeaky - ". . . EEK!" Eeks went off around the classroom like flashbulbs at a stadium concert. As I struggled through the rest of the period I noticed a little girl in a grey cardigan and blue Health Service glasses that matched her hairband. She was trying desperately to follow everything I said. Behind her dusty lenses, her eyes were sad.
I don't remember her name but she has been in every awkward class I have ever had to teach since that day.
Gregor Steele's first bad class wrote him a nice poem when he left.