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‘Sir’ is a state school English teacher in a big city in the UK. Prior to this he worked with children with a variety of Special Educational Needs, particularly those with behavioural and social problems. His teaching has been rated as ´Outstanding´ by Ofsted which means he once did a great job for 50 minutes. Save for a light dusting of fiction in order to protect the innocent (and indeed the guilty) anything recounted here is absolutely true. Otherwise, there will be some exciting political debate where everything Sir thinks is also absolutely true. Twitter: @seekingsir

17 June 2010


I’m ambling across the playground with a full cup of coffee teetering dangerously close to spilling on a small child’s head – potentially no bad thing, of course, depending upon the child in question and the relative severity of the scalds – when I hear the shrill tones of a girl screaming my name from within a hoard of pupils behind me: ‘SIR! SIR!’ Her screeching has the desired effect: I pause immediately, snaffle up the top centimetre of my coffee in order to avoid a potential act of Health and Safety criminal negligence and prepare myself to be dragged from a blissful and joyfully distant daydream into the world of decidedly variable personal hygiene, cartoon-esque casual violence, far-too-obviously-stuffed bras and endless throngs of E-number fuelled lunatics that constitute the modern secondary school playground.

What could it be, I wonder? Perhaps a fight requiring the use of my budding authority and manly teacher skills to defuse? Perhaps a pre-lesson homework excuse? Perhaps a young year 9, sufficiently inspired by my opening lesson on adverbs, is desperately seeking my perennial wisdom to enlighten the darkened path of English grammar? Admittedly I always thought that last one was going to be something of a long shot; in actual fact, in turned out to have been about as likely as the Pope donning a burkha to mass because it made him look ‘both religiously tolerant and sneaky’.

And so it was that I turned to greet my needy charge, careful to effuse the ‘relaxed yet authoritative’ aura that I was so keen to develop.

It is Shelly, a year 8 girl. I do not know her very well. ‘Sir,’ she says, ‘look…’.
She puts her right hand into her blazer pocket. I am intrigued. I look. She fumbles around momentarily. I am slightly more intrigued. She seems to have produced nothing but her own hand… I am confused. Oh, hang on; it has definitely changed position… I’m getting this now… Yes, Shelly’s middle finger is quite definitely raised. And straight. And pointed in my general direction. Worse, she has fixed me with a deranged look and is baring her teeth – which, incidentally, would put the Wife of Bath to shame – and emitting some kind of screechy tribal war cry. At this point, as if to add a touch of endearing femininity to proceedings, she sticks her formidable tongue out at me. I quickly decide that its blueness – she has an ‘ice-pop’ in her non-swearing hand – is something further to her advantage. It’s the pièce -de-résistance. It’s like the end of the Hakka with an unexpected Technicolor twist.

I have been on my first stint of in-school teacher training for a sum total of 2 days. My principal achievement so far has been to be publicly humiliated by a 12 year-old girl with a fluorescent tongue. I would love to say that I consoled myself with the old axiom ‘the only way is up’. The problem was that I knew very well that it wasn’t - Yaz´s perennial optimism was sadly incapable of rousing me from reality. Indeed, I had spent enough time doing youth work and assorted jobs with ‘youth at risk’ to be well aware that things were all too capable of going sideways, or, should I not improve dramatically, straight bloody down at an alarming rate…

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