Learning teaching

Thursday 15th December 2011

“ROLF Harris here yet?”

“Standing right behind you.”

“Oh, sorry, sir.”

Bristol Cathedral School, forty years ago. I had to wear an academic gown, even though I was only practising and had asked to be excused.

“The boys will rib you if you don’t.”

They ribbed me anyway, hence a nickname appropriate to the beard, curly hair and horn-rimmed spectacles.

“Been called worse,” I told them, attempting to shrug it off.

The university tutor made several visits in order to assess my progress. She was not impressed.

“I was expecting more detailed lessons plans. And it is customary for teachers to stick to them.”

“Sorry. They seemed to be getting bored. I thought I’d introduce a bit of fun.”

“You are training to be a Latin teacher, not a clown. I’ll come and see you again in a fortnight’s time.”

I didn’t fare that much better on the football field, PE being my subsidiary subject. Refereeing a house match was harder than ploughing through De Bello Gallico.

At least two of the goals were probably offside and I should have sent Williams off after the third fight, but I hadn’t the heart and, besides, I wanted the underdogs to grab a late equalizer, though they ended up losing 5-3 when the house that won all the sports cups scored another in the ninth minute of injury time.

Somehow I bluffed my way towards the end of term. Running a couple of drama sessions may have helped, when the clown could abandon the gown and ablatives absolute for more entertaining principal parts.

Then came the demo.

Student friends were gathered on College Green, opposite the school, for a march against pollution. Hurrying across the road to join in, I was spotted by pupils also leaving after Saturday morning lessons. The Bristol Evening Post printed a great photograph of a gas-masked protestor, my wife and our young son, in his pram.

“We saw you, sir…. that your wife in the paper, sir? …she’s cool, sir! … you a hippy, sir?”

Some say Banksy was a pupil at the Cathedral School. I wonder if they ribbed him too.

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