Thurday, 25th October
Keyword for the Day: Old School Part 2
Today was a rather uneventful day – Chair’s briefing for an upcoming Executive meeting on 7th November this morning, typing up Planning Policy Committee minutes this afternoon, and then a visit to Christie and Nick this evening.
I drove past the old school site twice today. There is just a tiny bit of it left – I’m sure that tomorrow it will be completely demolished.
I spoke yesterday of my old English teacher, Mary Kelly. She really was an ogre at school – very strict, sometimes prone to explosive outbursts of rage and during the first few months she taught me English I was in trouble as often as the rest of the class. Then, one day, everything changed. We were reading Brave New World by Aldous Huxley. The lesson began with us having to read a set number of pages to discuss. I loved this type of work, I finished first and, of course being a thirteen year old, got bored.
‘Anne Beasley!’ she bellowed. ‘Get on with your work’. I remember my heart pounded with fear. I grinned at my mates who all looked up from their reading. ‘Stand up,’ she screeched. I stood up, still grinning.
She made me go to the front of the class. I picked up my copy of Brave New World to take with me, but she told me to leave it on my desk. She left me standing at the front, grinning stupidly, for the rest of the allocated reading time. When the time was up, she turned to me.
‘Now, Anne is going to tell us all about the pages we have just read,’ she said, turning to me with a self-satisfied smirk.
I had been looking forward to English that week so that I could read more of Brave New World. Of course, I recounted the part of the story I had just read almost perfectly, adding a few interjections of my own opinions and a little bit about genetics – I recall we were learning the basics of cells, chromosomes etc in Science, a subject in which I was also very interested. Eventually, she had to shut me up. The rest of the class roared with laughter as she told me to sit down and read the next few pages while everyone else had to answer questions about the part of the book they had just read.
After writing a question on the blackboard for the rest of the class to answer in their exercise books, she sidled over to me, pulled up a chair and sat down. ‘Have you read it?’ she asked sternly. I nodded. ‘What do you think?’ she said.
I gave her my thoughts on the next part of the story. ‘Have you read this before?’ she barked. ‘No,’ I said, ‘but I might get it out of the library so that I can carry on reading it later.’
In those days, schools had a library where you could visit at lunchtime and borrow books, just like at the main library in town.
She then stood up, frowned at me and told me to get on with the question on the board. After she had given out the homework and returned everyone’s homework books except mine, the lesson ended. She made me stay behind – it was breaktime and she said I had to stay in as punishment. I really thought I was in deep trouble, and despite my brave facade when I had grinned at the rest of the class, I began to cry as I stared at the pile of collected-in Brave New Worlds on her desk.
When everyone had gone she pulled up a chair for me next to hers at her desk. I remember she extracted a packet of chocolate digestives from her desk drawer and offered me one, which I declined.
She then reached over and picked up my homework book, which was on her desk, and turned to my last piece of homework. ‘Did you do this yourself?’ she said, smiling as the scary-teacher look was replaced by a kindness I had never before seen. She then apologised – yes, apologised, for making me cry.
‘I love writing, too,’ she said quietly as she handed me my homework book. She confessed that up until that day she had suspected my mum or someone older had been helping me with my English homework. She then said I was very lucky to be able to read so quickly and that it usually takes years of practice to be able to do it. She said she would give me extra help with my writing, if I wanted, because she said she thought I had a talent for it. Then she did something teachers today would probably get suspended for – she gave me a hug!
‘Sorry for upsetting you,’ she said. ‘I think we have probably got off on the wrong foot, haven’t we?’
After breaktime all my friends crowded round. ‘She’s such a cow,’ everyone was saying. ‘Fancy keeping you in just for that!’
I was quite a hero – but I never let on what had really happened. I got ‘kept-in’ at break quite often, when she would look at extra-curricular essays I had written, comment on them and mark them for me. I did have many more run-ins with Mary Kelly, though, one of which involved skiving off Assembly and hiding in the loos with my mates, but whenever she told me off she would always give me a little wink and a secret smile. Oh – and lifts home from school when it was raining.
I never let on, though. Everyone hated her, so I had to pretend to hate her, too!