Saturday, 5 September 2009

"Carpe Diem" does not mean "God's Fish"

I have no vested interest to declare. I am not a schoolteacher. I don't know many teachers. And I don't have any children in education at the moment.

Nevertherless, I found this story scary. Apparently the General Teaching Council wants teachers across the country to sign up to Code of Conduct that will require them to watch what they do outside of school. It's been theorised that this would mean teachers being banned from getting drunk at the weekend.

As I said above, I have very little knowledge of teachers and teaching. But if I had to spend five days a week dealing with today's kids, I think I might drink to forget. Plus there's the creeping nature of this type of thinking, which is a little worrying. Where does it end? "First they came for the teachers, but I did not speak up, as I did not have corduroy elbow-patches on my jackets...."

But it got me thinking about my own school days, ohmygod years ago. I went to what could have generously been described as a traditional school. Here is one-quarter of us, sitting down for the obligatory photo to mark the school's centenary year in 1983:

I've only been able to include one quarter of the final picture as I've assumed you're not reading this blog in Panavision. But you get the idea. Yes, we were Nerd Central. And it was Dickensian in tooth and claw. At my school, Goodbye, Mr Chips was seen as a documentary.

And so it was with the teachers. One of my Latin teachers, Mr Bennewith, was a case in point. I realise that previous sentence is doing a lot of heavy lifting. Yes, I took Latin. My school had more than one person responsible for the subject. And there was none of this 'call me by my first name' nonsense, either. We went through our entire school career singularly unaware of our teachers' first names. To do otherwise would have been unthinkable.

Given that I don't get to speak to that many ancient Romans these days, I wonder why I took Latin in the first place. I've forgotten most of it, 25 years later, but I wouldn't have missed the Bennewith experience for all the olives in Herculaneum.

Mr Bennewith came from a generation where teachers were schoolmasters. He still wore the flowing black cape on a daily basis; I suspect he'd only just been weaned off the mortarboard. I think he still considered it most unfair that he wasn't allowed to use the cane on the pupils under his charge, relying instead on a withering glare and verbal intimidation. But being somewhat Wodehousian in his approach, referring to younger boys as 'squeakers' and older ones as 'bounders' perhaps never quite had the effect he intended.

One example: in the middle of our ablative verb conjugations, one pupil farted quite noticeably. Being 14-year-olds we predictably found this hilarious. Without breaking his stride, Mr Bennewith raised his eyes to to perpetrator. "Sir," he harrumphed, "kindly take your launchpad somewhere else."

I know he retired many years back. Even so, the thought of teachers like Mr Bennewith being denied their nightly claret simply does not compute.


Anonymous said...

I had a teacher like that as well - except it was English, not Latin (I managed to excuse myself from Latin after the first year!). Shame some kids of today aren't taught in the same way, maybe we'd all be better off because of it.

City Girl said...

God's Fish (heh-heh-heh!)

Latin comes in handy when working the Sunday crossword puzzle, no? And just think of the graffiti you could write in Latin in the men's room at work! (a la Life of Brian)

Three Legged Cat said...

Speaking as a teacher, I find the 'proposed' Code of Conduct rather alarming. Not only will I be unable to get disgustingly drunk at the weekend (actually, I can't recall the last time that happened - no pun intended - but I would like to reserve the right to overindulge in the future), but I may actually have to start using correct spelling and punctuation on my blog. Bah.

None of my students call me by my first name, but some of my Y11 (that's fifth form in old money) engineering students have taken to greeting me with a hearty cry of "Lind-ers!" every time they see me: in school, in town, at the supermarket, at a gig... It's hard to cope with the fame, but I struggle on.

Le laquet said...

I don't care what the hell they say I am NOT behaving! NEVER!


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