Teacher And The Times Newspaper
As I slave over these posts I often have to fall back on the dictionary. Perhaps that is not apparent when you read them! The moment I sift through the pages, I recall a gruff man holding a rolled up copy of The Times looming over me. It is my English teacher, back in the classroom. I am often the slowest pupil to find the word he has set. At first, he shouts ‘come on boy’ and then it moves on to ‘come on, you slow boy’. As seconds pass in frozen time, I am still fumbling to find the word. My moniker becomes ‘you useless boy’. As anticipated, the rolled up Times hits my head repeatedly as my fingers flick through the pages. The moment I handle a dictionary, that teacher and The Times newspaper leap out.
It was 1957 in one of the new Secondary Modern Schools. We knew that the English and Maths teacher had been to university but none of us knew what that meant. They lorded over the other teachers who came through Teacher Training College. In addition, I was aware that there was a division in the way we children were treated. Those from Meole Village, usually from a home owned by their parents, were in the first rank. The rest of us, who were from that highlight of post-war development, the council estate, were in the second rank. Your address defined how you were taught. These higher trained teachers despised, or is it despaired, at us council kids. Imagine how we looked on their CV.
Teacher and The Times newspaper
However, The Times did not knock any sense into me. I don’t think I saw myself as a failure in those days, but I was clearly troubled. My earlier promise fell apart after my father dumped the family. I was a child in poverty, forced to grow up quickly as we tried to make ends meet. Even English, which I have now learned to love, was a challenging subject because of the teacher. She demanded that we buy a hardback exercise book for our poems. It was cheap enough but I would never ask my mother for money. She had none, I had none, and so I never bought the book. Consequently, she pointed me out in every lesson. I became ‘the boy without the poetry book’.
Teaching by fear
The teaching by fear method was prevalent. The teacher who wielded The Times also had an unerring ability with a rubber. Perhaps he had learned that throwing grenades during his National Service. The little bouncy eraser would come flying across the room and strike you on the head. The maths teacher would strike fear by casually explaining how he had thrown a boy out of the window and into a bed of roses. These paragons of virtue lacked any sense of empathy over poverty or deprivation. I look back on school as a wasted opportunity. Fortunately, I owe my early education to Rummage Sales. I devoured any comic, book, annual or novel I could lay my hands on.