On a suggestion from my Creative Writing MA tutor, I seem to be writing about schools a bit at the moment, and I see no reason you guys should escape. So this is a story about teachers and, yes, it is ridiculous.
However, I sent it to my little sister, an actual primary school teacher, for fact-checking, and she approved it, so there must be a grain of truth in there somewhere. Well, maybe half a grain.
And if you liked this, more small stories are available.
by Nick Bryan
Over there! The poster little Liam made! The paints were daubed all over the place, because he hasn’t worked out colouring between the lines. Bless his little cotton motor functions. Maybe one day he’ll re-invent impressionism.
And dangling nearby, Alice’s mobile, I’ve no idea what all that stuff hanging off it is meant to be. Well, except the paper dinosaur, I definitely recognise that. I quite like dinosaurs, you see. I may have suggested it to her.
And the toys, scattered across the room, varying stages of decay. Bite marks, stitched repairs and coloured stains. It was seven at night, and they were by far the most intimidating presence in the reception classroom. They threw shapes across the wall, armless men and half-gutted foam shapes.
Even though it was my classroom and I spend hours every day in here teaching the reception kids, I had to admit, I was unsettled. Partly because of the dark, but mostly because I had no idea what was coming. Miss Dalston had asked me to meet her here, after a prolonged awkward spell.
First, she’d glared at me after I took the last cucumber sandwich that time. It had seemed an intense look, all things considered. After all, there was always cheese and ham. And then I’d re-organised my class’s schedule to book the main hall for a different time. No big deal, I had just gotten sick of five year olds vomiting because P.E. was directly after lunch.
But the secretary, a vacant, constantly-tranquilised woman, had either not noticed it clashed with Miss Dalston’s booking or simply not bothered to tell her. Either way, it had ended in more sharp looks.
Things came to a head this morning, when I spotted one of my kids beating a little girl with a branch he’d torn off a nearby tree. That kind of behaviour would not be tolerated, I’d said. Knocking your fellow students about is not permitted, and nor was vandalising the school scenery. Although he was the kind of pint-sized thug I’d have expected it from, to be frank.
Anyway, he kept protesting, but since he was one of my students, I felt there was no reason not to send him home immediately, pending a curt conversation with his parents concerning not beating other students around with saplings.
Unfortunately, in my disciplinary fervour, I forgot that the child in question had an identical twin. His brother was in Miss Dalston’s class, and it was he whom I had just sent away from school. To be honest, in light of the severity of the offence, I felt my decision remained reasonable anyway.
However, Miss Dalston did not see it that way. Her eyes raked into me as she stormed back from the secretary’s office, no doubt having failed to discern much of use. Since the secretary probably thought the twins were the same child and she was seeing double.
It was lunchtime when a scrap of used receipt appeared in my pigeon hole, a message scrawled on the back. She still had not spoken to me in person about any of this. Apparently I was to meet her in my classroom at seven for “a word”. Seven wasn’t particularly convenient for me, to tell the truth, since school was done by three, but I didn’t want to provoke her any further.
So myself and another, saner, teacher went for a pint to kill a couple of hours. He did suggest that perhaps I’d misconstrued the subliminal messages of her terrifying dark stares. Perhaps she was secretly attracted, and wanted me at school after dark for a thrilling illicit liaison.
When seven o’clock rolled around and the door slowly opened, that option dissolved in moments. There was no sex for me here. There was some disappointment there, but mostly fear. In fact, the only good news was that she was not wielding a knife.
She let the door drop shut behind her, and suddenly I wished I’d been bright enough to turn the light on. The lighting outside may have let me move around freely, but now it was creepy.
‘Hello,’ I waved, stupidly, ‘what did you want to see me about?’
Finally, she replied. ‘I’ve heard that bullying in schools isn’t just for students. I believe you are trying to force me out of here by undermining my authority and stealing my sandwiches.’
Unable to think of a rational response, I stared blankly. Suddenly, I realised that she was weaving through the tables towards me. I tried to keep one of them between us, but it didn’t work.
Now, I don’t know if you’ve ever had a handful of crayons shoved into your face, but it’s a horrible experience, not to mention quite waxy. For a moment, I felt myself drowning in bright green slippery gunk, like some garish oil slick.
Fortunately, I was able to grab one of those partially dissected foam cubes and smack it into the side of her face, before rolling to one side, spitting out crayon and impaling my own legs on discarded action toys. Was this how she disciplined the children?
She was also on her feet, whilst I was still swearing on the carpet. I wasn’t sure if I was the bully or the bullied by now, but regardless, I was not enjoying it. I’d been expecting a rude conversation at worst, not a beating. I was left with no choice but to run away, unheroically.
As she picked whiteboard pens from her pocket and threw them like darts, I scrabbled upwards for the door, knocking my head on the side of a table in my haste. This was simply too British for words. Store it up in your mind for weeks, then have a breakdown.
I finally made it out of the classroom, the relief beating in my head and a hurled jack-in-the-box beating against the wall. Outside was a plastic school chair, ropes dangling from its sides and a small knife left near it.
Had someone tied up a child? This was downright strange.
Miss Dalston, a moment later, emerged from the classroom looking dazed and rubbing the rope burns that were suddenly incredibly prominent on her wrists. I just stared, as a small group of police came around a corner, expressions none too sympathetic,
The officer in charge was shouting something about lowering my weapon, and I suppose it did look like I’d been in a fight. Also, one of them said they’d found the child I’d locked in the cleaner’s cupboard.
This was one hell of a set-up. I didn’t think we teachers had this much free time. I was so transfixed that I forgot to release my grip on the foam cube, so one of the policemen shot me with a taser.
Copyright me, don’t steal without emailing, peace in our time, prayers for Japan, hope you are well, etc.