There is Always A Way Forward (2)

At the age of 19 and training to be a teacher David was sent to observe in a very rough secondary school in London. I’m afraid there were a lot of very poor schools in those days. He was amazed at the misbehaviour and saw many things such as pupils climbing out of classroom windows and running off during a lesson.

During his time at this school chaos seemed to be the order of the day, which made just one teacher stand out amongst all the others.  This is what he saw.
Passing a classroom one day he noticed the teenagers lining up quietly in two rows waiting to enter the classroom when told. This excellent behaviour  was totally out of place, especially when the teacher turned out to be the tinniest, most slim lady he had ever seen. She walked up carrying a large canvas bag over her shoulder, pointed to the door and the pupils silently filed into the room. A little while later he happened to be walking past the open classroom door. He noticed that everybody was extremely well-behaved. He had no idea how this tiny individual managed such discipline but he was desperate to know the “secret”.

Luckily one of his later lesson observations turned out to be with this very teacher who was called Mrs Porter. He waited outside the room with the (well-behaved) pupils at the appointed time and was last in the door. He was given a chair at the back of the room and an orderly lesson proceeded. He could see nothing that could be considered out of the ordinary except that he had already come across some of the pupils behaving extremely badly for other teachers.
Then, about two thirds of the way through the lesson, it happened.
A snoring sound came from a boy’s table about four rows back next to the wall. The teacher stopped the lesson and a shiver of apprehension went round the room. She stood up and along with everybody in the room looked at the boy who had fallen asleep. She then said in a very calm voice, “Don’t wake him”.
Mrs Porter then sat at her desk and lifted the large canvas bag onto the top of the teacher’s desk. Every teenager in the room was transfixed as this ritual unfolded in front of them. Slowly, a mirror on a stand was produced and placed in front of her. She then brought out her handbag, unzipped a side pocket and took out some lipstick which she held up high for all to see. A gasp of wonder escaped the watching pupils before, in unison, they whispered the word “indelible”.
For the next minute everybody fixated on watching the spectacle of Mrs Porter applying copious amounts of this to her lips. It was a tremendously exaggerated but very popular act which involved the pupils watching whilst alternating glances at their snoring classmate to see if he had woken. He had not and the suspense continued to build.
Eventually the mirror was placed back in the bag and Mrs Porter stood up and straightened her dress. Throughout the last few minutes not a word had been spoken. Slowly she walked towards the snoring boy as the rest of the class were fighting for the best places to view events with the ones furthest away standing on their chairs. Mrs Porter then approached and in one quick move took his face in her hands and gave him a firm kiss on the left cheek.
As she stepped back he awoke with a start. His eyes were wild and darting as he gradually took stock of the scene that had formed around him and his hand flew to his exposed cheek. All watched in wonder as realisation dawned on his face and he looked at the smudged lipstick on his hand.
He jumped up whilst vigorously rubbing his cheek and said, “No, No, NOOOO!”
Mrs Porter looked at him and said quietly, “You will of course remember Wayne the definition of the word “indelible” as covered in our very first lesson. Not always obvious in the mirror but it will be there. I expect you’ll want to be going to the wash basins in the toilets now, so you are excused.”
Wayne ran from the room.

The rest of the class returned to their seats generally agreeing that it had been a good show and that justice had been done. Two minutes later the bell went and in an orderly fashion the teenagers left the classroom. David followed Mrs Johnson back to the staffroom where she stood on a chair and loudly announced that everybody who saw Wayne Johnson should mention the mark of Mrs Porter’s kiss on his cheek. There was a murmur of approval from all the other teachers. She then turned to David and said, “It’s amazing what young people believe. Sometimes we keep this going for weeks.”
David, of course, had lots of questions but his busy schedule denied him the opportunity to ask. He did however decide that Mrs Porter definitely had “the edge”. He wondered how he could manage to do the same.
As it happened, months later he unwittingly created just such an illusion for himself. Read on….


David’s first full job as a teacher was in another very tough comprehensive in the middle of London. Quite naturally the kids played him up as much as possible and he had a terrible time trying to establish order.
David found playing rugby helped him to stay sane.
One weekend he was playing as usual when his opposite number crunched into him and there was a cracking sound in his chest.
Needless to say, an hour later he was at the local A&E where he was diagnosed with three broken ribs. He was told that his whole chest would have to be plastered so that the bones were kept in place whilst they mended. I don’t think this happens today.
On the Sunday his Mum was visiting and she kindly went out and bought him some extra-large shirts. Under no circumstances did he want the pupils to know he had the disadvantage of being covered with plaster. He was sure it would only encourage them to be even worse in class

On Monday it was an exceptionally warm April day. He, quite literally, rolled out of bed because extreme pain meant he could not sit up from a lying position. He very slowly dressed and managed to get to school.
He decided to stand as the children entered so they would not see him have to strain to get out of his chair.
After 10 minutes the classroom was becoming very hot and he was repeatedly asked to open the window. However, it was also a very windy day and so he was reluctant. A few minutes later though, with droplets of sweat running down his forehead, he was forced to concede. As he stood in front of the class, gusts of air would blow past him and his tie kept flapping about, which made the kids laugh. He felt things were getting worse on the behaviour front when, in exasperation, he picked up a drawing pin and pushed it through his tie and into the plaster saying, “Right, that’s it fixed. Back to the lesson.”
He was caught totally unaware as a gasp of shock went up around the classroom. Until, of course, he suddenly realised how this simple act must have been viewed by the pupils who had no idea about the plaster under the shirt. He was then astonished to find that they were all were looking at him in a different way and that class behaviour suddenly improved.

Now, at that point, David was starting to doubt whether teaching was for him.
However, from that moment on he was treated with such respect by all the pupils that he stayed there for six years and finally moved away to a promotion.