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What keeps me awake at night - Over-supply of antagonism

Anonymous views from education's front line

Anonymous views from education's front line

This week: a supply teacher in London

The pupil is listening to his MP3 player - and I let him get away with it as it shuts him up for a few minutes. The rest of the class are fine. Then suddenly a fight erupts between a long-haired kid and the MP3 pupil. Apparently, long-hair boy had tried to insert the device up the kid's nose (something I'd also wanted to do) and had almost been successful.

So the two of them are at it with fists and I'm at the desk in front. I quickly get between the two Year 9s and do the usual grabbing of flaying fists, in the process suffering the odd well-placed punch to the lower abdomen. I leave the long-haired one in his chair and push the other into the corridor: he's a blur of black blazer, pulled-out shirt and - worst of all - damaged pride.

Once in the corridor I realise I need help. I'm supply, I don't know their names, so I call for assistance. I see a teacher opposite shake his head and go back to his marking; another is on his way somewhere else and right now it's awkward - the only thing to do is send for whoever is supposed to be on duty.

"Stay there - calm down - I'm sending for the duty. whoever."

I step back into the class, but it is now out of control. The class prefers this real-life episode of Gladiators to English lit, and someone who doesn't know their names is a gift. Aware that I may have overstepped the mark in manhandling a pupil out of the class, I smile and try to continue the lesson.

But no, MP3-boy storms back in, with the look of menace in his eye. "Round two!" shouts a cheerleader, and I know I'm faced with an assault if I do nothing.

I'm there before he gets to long-hair - the fists are flailing and luckily he's not a heavyweight. I push him once again out into the corridor with his legs and fists beating the walls. This time it's clearly out of control and I'll get support, right? Nope - the same face has found his marking intensely important and the corridor is empty. I hold the pupil against the wall and tell him he'll be suspended and offer several other pieces of forceful advice even though I still don't know his name. His eyes remain set on revenge.

As he storms in for the third time to a chorus of "Round three!" I'm now in the role of an unfortunate ice hockey ref who has found himself trying to officiate a grudge match. One more time I somehow get this flailing animal out of the class and mercifully into the caring arms of three male teachers who pin him against the wall.

The East End school (advertised as being award-winning, with beacon status) sent me an apology and told me how uncharacteristic such behaviour was at that place. I'm sure it wasn't. As a supply teacher it was just another day.

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