Please Sir, I Can't Read!

30th September 2005 at 01:00
PLEASE SIR, I CAN'T READ! By Lazarus Sheridan. Azal Press pound;12.99 inc pp from 18 Talman Grove, Stanmore, Middlesex laza@bearal.freeserve.co.uk

Lazarus Sheridan's memoir is a real treat for historians of education: an account, by someone who was there throughout, of London schooling from the immediate post-Second World War years to the early Eighties.

At the start there's a detailed description of life in a 1946 training college, followed by some riveting accounts of life in difficult schools in the Forties and Fifties.

Let no one think that disruptive pupils are a new phenomenon; at the very start of his career, in Tower Bridge secondary modern, Sheridan not only met the loud confessions of illiteracy from which the title is drawn, but was attacked by an enraged boy: "He put his head down and, with his arms flying wildly, charged at me."

There was a tendency for teachers to work out their own salvation: "Several told me of their own methods of ensuring discipline and showed me their personal implements. Slippers, boxing gloves and table tennis bats were the favourites."

Sheridan survived, thrived, and made his mark, eventually in two headships, at William Patten and the Gateway schools. Through decades of change, he built a career that honoured his profession, touched the lives of thousands of children, and now garlands his retirement with memories.

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