I employed every behaviour-management strategy in the book: specific positive praise, clear and consistent routines, high expectations. I had a row of lovely students at the front of the class who eagerly listened to my every word.
Towards the back of the class, however, it was chaos. One child sat drawing his tag on a scrap piece of paper. Two girls wrote notes to each other, not even concerned that I could see what they were doing.
Another boy ate a packet of Jaffa Cakes; the crinkling of the plastic wrapper disrupting my train of thought each time he rummaged in his pocket to fetch another one.
Desperately trying to impart some knowledge to at least some of the children, I began annotating a GCSE poem on the overhead projector. And then squeals of laughter erupted.
All heads swiftly turned towards the window. Open-mouthed, I watched a 15-year-old boy climb out the ground-floor window.
I’ll never forget the smile on his face, as he threw his leg over the window frame, before leaping onto the grass verge just below. My heart was beating uncontrollably as I watched him sprinting away, against a backdrop of chuckles and cheers from his classmates.
I froze. I had never encountered an incident like this before and most certainly had not included anything on the eventuality of a child’s escaping from the classroom in my lesson plan.
Anxiously, I tried to focus the class, shushing and waving my arms to signal for quiet. Almost pleading for their support, I moved between the rows of desks, trying to encourage the children to gain focus and pick up their highlighter pens.
I had not even completed the referral form to send for on-call support when, cool as a cucumber, my classroom door swung open and the young escapee walked in. He looked sheepishly at me, stifling giggles as he made eye contact with his classmates.
All eyes were on me. What was going to happen next? How would I react? I could feel my cheeks burning as I calmly exhaled a sigh of relief that he had returned unharmed.
The class waited for some kind of a reaction. I gave them none.
Adrenaline got me through the rest of the lesson. At the end of the class, he stayed behind and missed some of his lunchtime in detention. His apology was not sincere; he enjoyed every minute of his out-of-class adventures.
For the rest of the term, he actually ended up behaving much better for me. I’d like to think that perhaps he saw that I was genuinely worried about what had happened to him, although the truth is probably that he anticipated getting into serious trouble.
To this day, I’ve never told another person about that English lesson just before lunch on a Tuesday afternoon.
To my former headteacher: I can assure you that no child was harmed during the escape of pupil X from the English department. Though the same can’t necessarily be said for my ego.
The author is a deputy headteacher in the Midlands
Is there something you wish you could tell your headteacher? Email your story, in no more than 900 words, to: firstname.lastname@example.org