Tag Archives: school

Teachers are Humans. Who Knew?

28 Dec

Teachers are human beings. When I was a kid I had no idea. I’ve been travelling back in my mind to my school days a lot lately, replaying interactions teenage me had with certain teachers, and seeing things in a completely different light to how I did back then. I can step into the heads of those old teachers of mine, see where they were coming from. Because I am them now. I’m a teacher. How that happened I do not know, but it did, and it has been my profession on and off for ten years this year. And yea, teachers are human beings. Flawed. Unhinged. And with a beautifully twisted and well articulated sense of humour. That last sentence is open to accusations of writer’s bias. So be it.

I know that teachers are these things not only because I am one, that would be too small a sample section, but because I am also surrounded by them. Most of the things I do I do with teachers. I hang out with teachers, I drink with teachers, I get stoned with teachers, I discuss life with teachers, I argue with teachers, I sleep with teachers, I watch football with teachers, I get my advice from teachers. The woman currently the object of my attentions is a teacher. I even have a teacher for a flatmate. My living-room has a massive whiteboard on the wall and a fold-up table used solely for giving evening lessons. My living-room is a classroom with settees and a telly, for fuck’s sake! So I feel I am qualified to speak about teachers.

I was, for want of a better word, a challenge to my teachers. A pain in the arse. Although they must have liked my company, because they chose on an almost daily basis to spend an extra hour (sometimes two) of their time with me after the final bell had rung for the day, in detention. Man, in the winter I rarely got home before dark. And I only lived up the road. Detention. How is that allowed?

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I’m Back In 1995

15 Dec

Lately, when I lie in the darkness at night smoking a couple of spliffs in bed and switching off from the day spent traipsing all over teaching my students English, I’ve been having vivid flashbacks to my childhood. Random stuff. Never anything particularly significant. But one memory always leads on to another, and I am there, back on the school field or sat in detention or on Western Road in Brighton doing Christmas shopping with my sister, my nan and my aunt. I can smell it. Hear it. Feel it. Tonight is no different, but for the fact that I don’t have to get up for work tomorrow morning on account of a chest infection, meaning I can sit up in front of my laptop and write some stuff down. I am aware that smoking with a chest infection makes me an idiot.

For some reason tonight my brain took me back to an eventful day in the early months of 1995, when I was 11, playing out like a film in my mind’s eye, with 3D glasses provided free of charge, scenes that had been absent from my memory for well over a decade. Bizaare scenes.

It’s about half past one in the afternoon and, unlike most of my mates, I’m not in class but rather the school hall. I’ve been excused from lessons because I’m in the school production and an emergency rehearsal has been called because the performance date is approaching and we’re shit, basically. Nowhere near ready. My role in the play is a small one so most of the time it’s other people rehearsing their bits while I’m sat on the floor with the other D-Listers. I keep getting told off for talking and pissing about and the teacher’s really starting to get on my tits. I’m not interested in the production, I only signed up for a part in it because I knew it would get me out of class occasionally. Also I’ve got something more important on my mind. In a few hours I’m going to be making my debut for the school’s Year 5 football team and, even more exciting than that, it’s against Manor Hall, our biggest enemy, the school from just up the road, the kids of which we fight in the park, the same kids that we went to first school with and were best friends with until we separated and went to different middle schools at the end of Year 3 and became sworn foes. This is a proper derby. And my nan’s coming to watch. And even better than all of that, we get to leave school early to get over to their school in time for the game. At 2 o’clock I’m sent to go and get changed with the rest of the team. I’m given shirt number 11. I wanted 8, because it’s Gazza’s number, but 11 is the next best thing, I’m not complaining.

There aren’t enough seats in the mini-bus for the whole team so those of us with bikes take them instead. Down Church Lane, cut through the graveyard, across the green, through the square, along Manor Hall Road. Say hello to my nan. Jog up and down. Start the game. And then a moment that will haunt me for the rest of my life, of this I am sure, almost 20 years after it happened. A cross is put in from the left wing. I don’t know by who, but it isn’t by the player that should be out there, our left winger, because that player is me, and I’m hovering about just outside Manor Hall’s box. The ball goes over my head towards our star player Ross and as it approaches him it plays out in front of me in slow motion, as I know that Ross is more than capable of taking the sting out of this with his chest and then laying it off to me, and the one thing that I pride myself on is my technique when it comes to volleying. I position myself and Ross plays it perfectly, it bounces just in front of me and sits up nicely and I take it on the half volley and connect with it more sweetly than I will ever connect with another ball in my life. I watch it fly from my boot and I know already that it’s going in the top corner. Everybody knows it. There is silence as the ball spins away deliciously to its target. The goalkeeper doesn’t even bother moving. I’m about to write my name into school folklore by scoring a wonder goal from outside the box against Them. Them from up the road. Them whose school jumpers are bright blue as opposed to our navy blue ones. And my nan’s watching. And she’ll tell everyone what she saw. She’ll tell my dad. What goal celebration am I going to do?

The ball smacks against the angle of the crossbar and the post and ricochets behind for a goal-kick.

I go into shock.

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TEACHERS – Looking Back On The Mid 90s (with the help of my school yearbook) (Part 3)

12 Mar

I turn to the pages reserved for portrait photos of all of the school’s teachers. There are 83. Coincidentally the year of my birth. 46 are women, 37 are men. It’s a pointless, juvenile and sexist thing to do, but I do it anyway; I go through each of the 46 female teachers, counting the ones that I would sleep with now if they appeared exactly as they did then. Five. Two taught foreign languages. At school I never saw them as anything other than stuffy, boring women who I imagined had no life outside of the school. Nothing attractive about them. Now though, through my 30-year old eyes, they look alright. And interesting. Like they’ve got more to talk about than the process of conjugating irregular verbs. And we could chat in different languages if I met them today. About life. But back then I was more concerned with drawing Hitler moustaches on every face in the course book. Brilliant.

Also in the list of five is my Year 8 form tutor. She taught drama and food tech. All us boys knew she was hot, even then, but she was also extremely annoying. Always bollocking me for something insignificant. And in a pretentious voice. But she did look good. Probably the most attractive of all our teachers and the one we all fancied was the English teacher with the Italian name. Her reputation was tarnished though, at least outwardly, among all the boys, when it was discovered that she didn’t regularly shave her armpits. Never bothered me one little bit though. And wouldn’t now either. The fifth teacher I don’t remember what she taught or anything about her. I was never in one of her classes.

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THE 90s LOOK – Looking Back On The Mid 90s (with the help of my school yearbook) (Part 2)

5 Mar

90s hair was cool. But in a really shit way. 1996-97 was the transition period from curtains hair and the bowl cut, or as we called it, ‘I’ll have the number one high step, please, Norm.’ Norm was the barber. Everyone called him Dodgy Norm, which eventually just got shortened to Dodge. This affectionate nickname alluded to the fact that if you went into his shop in the morning you got a fairly decent job done on your Barnet. However, if you happened to pop in in the afternoon, after he had enjoyed his liquid lunch in the pub across the road, you were met by a somewhat more dodgy Norm. And naturally as school kids the only opportunity we got to go in there was after school; in the afternoon. Ah, the Step. If you wanted the bowl cut to go in a straight line around your head you asked for the ‘high step.’ If you asked for just a step, the barber shaped it into a wedge at the back. It looked like a duck’s arse. You had to have the high step. And towards the end of Curtain Hair’s reign not even the number one high step was enough. No. For your hair to get any sort of respect during the final days of the Bowl Cut Empire you had to throw in an undercut. ‘A number one high step undercut, please, Dodgy Norm.’

Then at the back end of 96 the changing of the guard took place. The curtains were closed for the final time. ‘I’ll have a number one French crop, please, Dodgy Norm.’ And by 1998 it was no longer the number one French crop, it was the ‘Nought point five French crop, please, Dodge.’ The 0.5. Basically, bald. The guard off. Shaved down to the scalp round the back and sides and then blended in to what little bit of hair you have left on the top of your head after it’s been taken as short as scissors will allow. It’s essentially the Forrest Gump cut. And then the best part, plastering it down with a fistful of sticky Happy Shopper Wet Look gel. 59p a pot. Bright blue stuff. Or bright green. They were both the same product, just with different names. One was Wet Look. The other was Firm Hold. Both made your hair look wet. Both held it firm. Both made the top of your head feel like a barn floor. And both stung your eyes when it rained and it ran down your forehead and into them. But it was a price worth paying for the right look. You had to look hard as a kid at the end of the last millenium, and that meant looking smart. Short tidy hair, yes. Floppy curtains, no.

Dodgy Norm passed from cancer a few years ago. He is still talked about by everyone as a local legend. The bloke everyone knew, everyone talked to and everyone liked and respected. A great bloke.

Me in the summer of 96. I only agreed to pose for the photo cos I knew that some time about eighteen years later I'd be reminiscing about Curtains Hair on the world wide web, and I thought a snap would come in handy

Me in the summer of 96. I only agreed to pose for the photo cos I knew that some time about eighteen years later I’d be reminiscing about curtains hair on the world wide web, and I thought a snap would come in handy

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Looking Back On The Mid 90s (with the help of my school yearbook) (Part 1)

5 Mar

A couple of weeks ago my mum gave me something I had totally forgotten she’d kept. Something I had totally forgotten even existed. My school yearbook from 1996-97, the year I started secondary school. I was 13. I spent the next week or so taking a trip down memory lane each night, hours and hours of reminiscing. Whilst smoking a lot of weed. And writing down whatever memories and thoughts were conjured up in my mind by the pictures. Here’s some of the shit I wrote in the notebook:

Sitting in the front row of her class photo is the first girl I ever fell in love with. I remember when she moved to our school. I was 11. She was 12. An older woman. Way out of my league. Was never interested. But we would walk home from school together sometimes. She lived round the corner on the estate. Either in the grey block of flats or the house opposite it. I can’t remember exactly. I used to see her knocking about with boyfriends older than me. Hated it. Until I just looked at this picture I hadn’t seen her face in about fifteen years. I remember vividly her South African accent. Strong it was. At first, anyway.

I’m pretty sure that girl, my first love, ha! settled down almost straight after finishing school and started a family. I seem to recall seeing her pushing a pram. That first child she had can’t be too far off the age that we are in these photos. Man, time just disappears. Blink. Gone.

—–

On page 54 there’s the kid who I had my first fight of secondary school with. And who I continued to fight with about once every three months in the middle of the field at lunch time for the next few years. “Fight! Fight! Fight!” The whole school’s formed a circle around the action. Better fight like you mean it! In about our third tear-up that kid gave me my first ever pummelling. He was in the year above, but for our first two fights he was near enough the same size as me. Then he had a growth spurt. I could be heard gulping, cartoon style. Fight three toughened me up for fight four, though, so it wasn’t a bad thing. We were sworn enemies for three years, constantly throwing punches at each other. It must have been over something fucking important. Must’ve been, right? Yea. One day a mate of mine threw an apple core in the direction of his group of mates on the field at lunchtime. It hit him in the head. He mistakenly took me for the culprit. He shoved me. Then he shoved me again. I threw a punch. In my mind that would be the end of it. He’d go down like a sack of spuds. Like on the telly. But my mind overestimated my power. He punched me back. We exchanged blows. He threw a lot more than me but didn’t land a single one. By that time I was into my third year of Korean martial art Tang Soo Do. Fuck yea! Who’s laughing?? I was a blocking machine! Wax on, wax off. Too busy blocking to remember to throw many, though. The kids in my year shouted for me. The kids in his year shouted for him. Two teachers dragged us by our collars inside. Detention after school.

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Bad Girls

22 Nov

“Take his head off of his fucking shoulders! Kill the bastard!” Leanne shouted, through the huffing and puffing brought on by booting seven shades of shit out of the boy who lay lying on the ground, battered and bleeding. She also smoked too much.

The four girls, all with matching peroxide ends and dark roots, their school ties hanging loosely around their necks, let their black shoes rain down on the poor kid, seemingly completely unconcerned about the damage they might be inflicting. Like wild animals, the sense was that they wouldn’t cease the beating until the victim was dead.

“Grass on me, you little muppet! Get me put in detention! How did you think I would just ignore a liberty like that?” Leanne continued to shout at the bag of bones that lay at her feet. “If you even think for a second about telling anyone who did this to you, I swear I will read your mind and I will kill you! Do you understand me? I will kill you.”

Three of the four girls, including Leanne, were growing more hysterical with rage and emotion as the assault went on. But not so Claire, who although she went along with the rest of the gang, was emotionally unattached, and even made sure that her feet landed every kick to the top of the boy’s arm rather than his head or neck.

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Plenty of Water in the Tap

20 Nov

The two children were sat with their legs curled up on the settee, watching Fun House. Their wet school bags and shoes sat on the mat just inside the back door. They were hungry. The kitchen cupboards were empty but for a tin of beans, and the only thing the fridge housed was a bit of margarine. Mum was working her part-time evening job, cleaning at the hospital, and wouldn’t be home until late; dad was due in the door any minute. Tom and his sister were home alone for the couple of hours after school every afternoon of the week, as they waited for dad to come in from work with dinner.

They each got up to greet their father as they listened to him close the  front door and shimmy past the excited dog in the hallway.

“In you go, boy. Get down.”

The blue carrier bag was placed down on the table; rain drops running down its plastic and depositing on the wood. Tom didn’t need to open it fully, he just pulled the two handles apart and saw that the only thing his dad had picked up on his way home had been four cans of super strength lager and a couple of dirty old potatoes.

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