(image by vk-red on flickr)
From the ages of 11-14 I went to a girls’ boarding school near Bristol. As part of our slightly old-fashioned ladylike education, we received both needlework and cookery lessons. To counteract the girliness, we were given geology lessons and had fire exits which (according to school lore) involved abseiling down the side of the building. Doubtful, in truthful terms, but a great story with which to frighten the first years.
Our needlework teacher was a Scottish woman whose name I now forget. All our teachers were officially Miss, Mrs or Mr So-and-So, but I do remember that she had an unusual first name, which we used as ammunition to mock her mercilessly behind her back. (I dread to think what my students say about me. It’s possibly best not to know.) She was probably in her mid to late 40s, but to us she seemed ancient. Yet another reason to be rude about her. Cruel girls.
One easter holiday, my family and I went across to France on the ferry. This was all very exciting, and my brothers and I spent the usual time running about like lunatics on deck, peering over the rails, with our hair and clothes whipping in the wind. After one such wild abandoned charge around the deck, I ran back inside to say hello to my parents – and ran straight into my needlework teacher. I was HORRIFIED. Not only did she have the audacity to be on the same ferry as me, but she added insult to injury by SPEAKING to me. The nerve of the woman! I, of course, did my best pre-teen shuffling and monosyllabic answering to her perfectly reasonable and friendly questions about where I was going and whether I was looking forward to my holiday, and escaped as soon as I judged it (barely) polite to do so. How on earth would I explain to my friends that I’d had to talk to a teacher out of school time? Dreadful!
Fastforward 20 years. I am now a teacher myself, with students aged from 5 to adult. I’ve run into a few of my late-teen and adult students around the place, which has always been fun, as they are grown-up enough not to be bothered about the teacher-student social barrier, and we usually end up having a good chat. However, I suppose it was only a matter of time before I ran into one of my less socially adept students.
It’s Saturday night. I walk into a pizzeria with my friend, who is visiting from England. In my dreadful Italian, I ask for a table for 2. Slightly to my right, I am vaguely aware of three boys eating pizza and laughing together over a story that one is telling. I glance a little more closely and realise that the one in full flow is one of my students. Not just any old student, though; one from my absolute bete-noir class. The class that, every lesson, I have to physically restrain myself from killing. The class that I roundly bollocked for talking over me (yet AGAIN) last me I saw them, and who retaliated by keeping their mouths shut, but all ostentatiously blowing their noses. Yeah, THAT class. As I look over at the table, he also glances up. The look of horror on his face at realising that he’s face to face with his teacher is an absolute classic. I’m transported straight back to that day on the ferry, and despite remembering how appalled I was that I had to make conversation, I wave and cheerfully say, “Ciao!” He has no idea where to put himself. Should he respond and look like an idiot in front of his friends (who are not my students), or should he be rude and ignore me? He settles for a watery grin, while saying nothing. For a brief moment, I almost feel sorry for him. However, I quickly decide that macabre amusement at his expense is far more entertaining. Karma will get me one day, I’m sure, but I’m enjoying tempting it while I can. Hohoho.
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