My Real Retirement Speech would include….
PART 1: Incidents and Accidents
Dear colleagues, thank you for giving me this opportunity to say what I have always wanted to say, and I do of course accept your offer of amnesty. You have all signed the agreement not to resort to Law in any shape or form. In addition please note sub-clause 15(b) stating your commitment not to employ or encourage any person or persons to cause my body or property any harm whatsoever, including kneecapping, egging of front windows or murder by any manner or means. Needless to say this stricture applies to you too.
Let me start by saying I have worked here for thirteen years, which is lucky for some. In this time you have given me much, and I have given plenty back, including the babies. As well as some of the stationery. I retain several whiteboard markers – the result of that paranoia teachers have about a whiteboard ahead and a bunch of howling kids behind, and no marker anywhere. And no, the electronic whiteboard is not a substitute! I promise to bring them back some day.
I have met many wonderful people in this organisation, some of whom are undoubtedly heroes. I remember well the time when we laboured under the iron fist of Big Mama Dix, the headmonstress from Hades-on Stour. With her Stasi Committee, Big Dix’s Reign of Terror almost finished me. I recall with shivers how in her last week of tenure (she was retiring to run an East European dictatorship disguised as Vassily BigDixoffsky, whose moustache, they say, was extensively used as a weapon of war) she called me into her office. Terrified, I attempted to hide under her desk. Unfortunately that space was already occupied by the corpse of a sixth former. But had to finally sit facing her on the famous Seat of Nails.
“Elkno!” she spat, “You have been conspiring against me….!”
I could hardly hear her as the sibilant hiss of her voice was almost drowned out by the sound of my knees knocking. “But your Dixness, ” I protested, “I have done nothing, nothing whatsoever to impugn or defer or disprove your Greatness…”
“Worm!” She said, “What about thisssss!?!?” At this point she unearthed from beneath the stack of severed testicles on her desk a single sheet of printed paper. Headed “E mail from the worm Elkon to Mike Bennett, Piss Artist. Courtesy Wormjinder the I.T. Contents: ‘Dear Bennett. How fortunate we are that our emails are never monitored or it is certain we would both receive the recognition we deserve. EOM.’ ”
“SO!” she screamed, reaching for the testicle-remover. “HOW DO YOU EXPLAIN THISSSS? How DARE you imply your emails are monitored????!”
I was all I could do to mop up the contents of my bowel and bladder while attempting a reply.
“Ifff it wasn’t for the fact ” she whispered “that I am retiring this week, you would be…on a disciplinary!”
Well I can tell you I grovelled my way out of that office like the lickspittle I was, counting blessings almost sufficient to arouse a nascent belief in a deity. But not quite.
I came nearer to actual Religion when I met Brunnhilde. This Amazonian, a spectacularly muscled, brilliantly blond Aryan entered my life like the sharp edge of a katana enters a pussycat. Hired by the Big Dix to launch our Sixth Form, she bestrode the corridors like a Valkyrie, her voice cruel as razor blades in soap, lacerating students and teachers alike. A lass and Alec! (That’s Alec Muggy, a mix of Stephen Fry and the Vicar of Dibley) took over the Upper School, leaving me groaning and lamenting the loss of the one role I had ever truly coveted – Head of Sixth.
Maturity and time has of course revealed that Brunnhilde was merely suffering from intense self-doubt, which made her shout very loudly and often, in case someone inadvertently voiced the truth. Beneath that armour lurks a perfectly lovely person, plunged out of her depth and terrified of drowning. This is the explanation of what psychologists call Narcissism, in my opinion. Education is riddled with Narcissists or people on that spectrum – they have my sympathy. We are all out of our depth. We are all drowning in bullshit produced in Westminster. I wonder where I am on the spectrum. Mind you, most of them are blond. But not all.
And then there was the Incident of the Homophobe. To my awe, the school decided to do PSHE on homophobia, how to tackle it, how to end it. Well, we had done sex and drugs and alcohol 375 times and as teachers we were beginning to wonder whether it would be a good idea to take up all three on a regular basis (most teachers do this anyway. It’s a fraught profession. I am myself considering Opium as a placebo for curing Retirement, which is a fatal illness)
So it happened like this: in the Year 12 year team meeting, we were shown the rather clever PowerPoint we were to use for the pupils, basically telling them not to use the word “gay” for something they didn’t like, not to bully people with a different sexual orientation. Laudable, I thought. Proud of you FHS, I thought. Well, some people in the room didn’t agree.
Including my best mate S. She, blowsy mummy-like Algerian Muslim and I were good buddies. We laughed much together. I gave help and advice with and for her kids. I had visited Algeria with another much-beloved Muslim colleague for the wedding of his brother, which brought us closer together. So naturally, when we were asked to go to computers to look at the PowerPoint in more detail and prepare the lesson, we sat next to each other. After a while, I noticed she was deleting slides, adding, altering, amending. “What are you doing?” I asked. She winked, giggled and said “no way can I tell my students it’s ok to be gay! It’s against my religion!”
We argued. We argued some more. Then some more. So I told the Amazonian in charge of Year 12. She told the Head. The Head called S into his office and told her off, and that she would not be allowed to do the lesson. (By the way, my other Algerian friend told her off too, called her a stupid woman following not the religion, but her ‘culture’) She hasn’t spoken to me since. So every time we pass in the corridor we keep our eyes firmly fixed on the ceiling, which is awkward when we reach the same door together. My only enemy in the place! It does annoy me that this bigot is allowed to be a form tutor – how will she deal with students unsure or unhappy about their sexuality?
Incidents, incidents…thirteen years pass so quickly. And you know what? The wonderful dedicated people fighting for the success and happiness of youngsters have my adulation. The idiocy of the DfE and Ed Sec after Ed Sec who has never taught in a classroom, who use education as an instrument of ideology and a way of electioneering does result in a massive number of new teachers jumping for the lifeboats. The cries of older teachers cracking under the strain almost drowns out the groans of pupils treated like indentured workers in the Exam Factory. Yet so many labour on, fixing their hopes and dreams on the success of their students. Working all hours. Going home to a cat with an armload of marking. Or even managing a family. Heroes! I love them all.
So I decided to become a nut. Or rather, NUT rep. See Part 2! In Defence and Axe Indents! Coming soon…