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Another brick in the wall

| September 6, 2013 | 0 Comments

By Bruce Pinnock

“Nothing I learnt at college or varsity prepared me for the classroom.” (Familiar complaint of new teachers.)

She came into the staffroom in a rush. Miss Smith was young (and usually lovely in a fragile way), but now her hair was in disorder, her arms waving. She looked ready to explode. Which she did: “I hate kids! I wish there were more of them so that I could hate those too!” Then she sat down and covered her face with her hands.

Well, obviously, we knew this was another case of New Teacher Disillusioned Syndrome (NTDS), but before it could become New Teacher Resigns in Despair (NTRD), we rallied round.

It was, of course, THAT class, and THAT boy. The last straw seemed to have been when he took to perfecting the important skill of undetected sideways spitting at his neighbour. He obviously still needed practice because the teacher (and his soggy-eared neighbour) knew exactly where the spit balls were coming from. So she kicked him out. Unabashed, he promptly ducked off upstairs to the top floor.

A few moments later, she was startled to see him hanging upside down, nearly two stories above the ground, waving cheerily at her through the window. He had suspended himself from the top balcony by his feet. The class moved into uproar mode, especially when she rushed out (with the classroom feather duster in her hand – perhaps for moral support) and ordered him to get off. He refused.

Then, to add to her problems, Mr Haasbroek from the classroom next door stuck his head out to ask her (with heavy sarcasm) whether she also wanted a few vuvuzelas for what was obviously a Cup Final taking place in her room. The noise was very loud. On the noise-to-learning ratio (which every deputy headmaster in charge of discipline is attuned to) it was registering in the ‘dangerous – meltdown imminent’ zone. Eagerly, the deputy charged out of his office to seek out the teacher malfunction. The scene that met his eyes made his mean little heart beat faster. There she was on the first floor, waving an ineffectual feather duster at a boy suspended above her, apparently attempting to tickle him to the point where he would let go and fall 30 feet, giggling all the way down.

“Everything all right?” he asked, artlessly. (Deputies learn to make unctuous and fatuous remarks like this at deputy-training school. Translated, it means, “Just wait until I report this to the headmaster!”) He disappeared, no doubt to return with the head. We were all sympathy. “What did you do?”

“I was desperate. He refused to budge. I decided it was time to get nasty. I said loudly, ‘Oh, this is so embarrassing! Somebody please tell this little boy his fly is down!’ It worked. The class laughed. He scuttled back up, sharpish. By the time the head got there, he was back in class, the class was quiet and I could say to the deputy, ‘What seems to be the problem?’”

There was silence. We were in awe. She had just shown masterful understanding of teenagers beyond her years. It is well-documented that teenage boys go through a crotch-conscious stage, from which they never get over. They (and Bill Clinton) cannot prevent themselves from continually touching to check all is hunky-dory down there.

“How did the rest of the class react?”

“When he came back in, I couldn’t help saying, ‘You don’t seem so cocksure, anymore.’ They laughed, and I pretended not to notice how they delighted in waving their little fingers at him.” She looked around defiantly: “I know that was not professional. But when I worked as a barmaid, it’s how I used to handle the obnoxious drunks who pester you in the pub. Should I resign?”

We reassured her. She would have no more problems from that boy – all she had to do was look at him, with a little amused smile. And the class was behind her. And the moral of the story? It is appalling that the authorities do not prepare lady teachers better for the jungle of the boys’ school classroom. Somebody really should include a Barmaid 101 module in their teacher training courses.

Category: Spring 2013

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