Is it him,or is it me?

20th April 2001 at 01:00
The folios are away, revision plans are operating and the second year have chosen their subjects. There's a moment to anticipate the holidays and contemplate the more bizarre moments that we encounter in our profession.

Lewis Carroll, as Charles Dodgson, was a vicar, but his ability to create a world "through the looking glass" suggests that he must have had at least some experience of the wilder moments as a teacher. These are the times when a small voice inside whispers: "Is this really happening?" Years ago I took a first-year football team. One of the lads, a centre-half, was clearly unwilling to go up for corners. Much shouting and cajoling from the touchline eventually induced him to burst into a stagger in the general direction of the opposition penalty area.

Half way there he took a sudden lurch to the left before veering back on course and arriving in place just after the corner had been taken.

He then had to be encouraged to return whence he came. Once again, he veered away from the straight line on his trek back. I asked as politely as I could what was going on.

He pointed to the centre circle: "Awfy bad luck to step inside there, sir!" he shouted, with the air of a man who had seen things I could only wonder at.

He's still playing football and still refusing t enter the centre circle.

Long afterwards, I had a pupil in English whose speciality was the bizarre turn of phrase that Peter Sellers made famous as the idiot gardener in Being There. Discussing media reaction to Princess Diana's death, he assumed the thoughtful stare that was generally the prelude to a shaft of bewildering comment.

As he left the class, he murmured to me in a conspiratorial fashion:

"Thought the press went over the top, sir. I didn't even know who she was - I've never watched Star Trek."

He reprised the performance a month later when insisting his folio piece was missing at home and that "The Brownies must have put it under the sink." When challenged, he looked pained: "I'm telling you, sir, anything that's missing, that's usually what's happened to it. The Brownies have put it under the sink."

It was one of those moments when you wonder, "Is it him or is it me?" To be fair, it's a condition that seems catching, and it's not confined to the pupils.

Only last week, commenting on my successful completion of a fund raising 24-hour Fast against Famine, I indicated to a pal how easy it had been. "It was a piece of cake," I breezily remarked, blissfully ignorant of the wild inappropriacy of my comment.

Maybe we get the pupils we deserve.

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