A Strong Character


Every so often at school teachers come across a child who is a “character”. This individual is destined to stay in their memories forever. This young child seems to attract attention for a variety reasons.
I will tell you about Jason. These are the occasions that I can remember. There were many more.

He was 9 years old when I first met him. He was smart and had a quick answer to everything, although it was often not what you wanted to hear. The headteacher of his previous school told me that at 7 years old he had been picked to play in a mini-football tournament. Jason had been thrilled and his Dad, who worked night shifts and slept in the day, told the teachers that he would wake up and get there as soon as he could to watch.
At 14.00 Jason’s Dad set off from home knowing that he had missed the start of the game. 10 minutes later he was almost there when he saw Jason, in his full kit including muddy boots, running down the street towards him. Jason saw his Dad and shouted, “Dad, Dad, I scored a goal! I scored a goal!” His Dad said, “Well done” and asked, “Is the match over?” He was met by a blank stare and, as things began to click into place, Dad noticed the school caretaker running along towards them both. Out of breath the caretaker explained that Jason had scored and immediately ran across the field and out of the school gate. The teachers had decide the caretaker was the most likely to catch him up and here he was.
“What were you doing?” Dad asked Jason.
“Coming to tell you of course,” was the reply.
With that and having established the game was still going on, they both returned the glowing Jason to the pitch.

The first time I personally came across him was in December when his Mum visited me to ask if we could clear up a misconception. It seemed that Jason had been watching a Christmas film and suddenly with three reindeer on the screen and with a straight face said, “Twat”. When his parents had enquired what he meant he proudly said with a big grin, “There are twat Wise Men. Une, deux, twat. We’ve been learning French.”

The next time I noticed him was in the awful weather of February when, whilst teaching his class, I noticed that he had managed to write in true “Hells’ Angels” style letters on the knuckles of both hands:

DEAF         and          GLORY 

As I carried on with my lesson my mind raced and ultimately I decided to ignore it. I had seen “Death” and “Glory” many times but not this. There could be any number of messages hidden therein from a basic phonics mistake to a very deep, well-meaning and thought provoking implication.

At the start of the following year at the end of a Tuesday, his new class teacher just happened to be passing me in the corridor on her way home after school. She stopped and said, “Jason has had £10 off me today.” Fearing the worst I enquired as to why I had not been told. In order to explain she firstly reminded me that she had taken a rather unusual summer holiday break in Siberia. Having come back full of amazement she wanted to tell the whole class and started off by passing five photographs around the room. There were four scenic views and one group photo by a lake. Desperate to get them interested she had laid down a challenge. She told them there were enough clues in the photos for the children to have a good guess as to where she had been. Then, as a big carrot, she had proudly taken a £10 note out of her purse and told them it would go to anybody who could come up with the right answer.
The photos had done the circuit of the class with the children each deciding on their guess for the end.
Finally the teacher had asked if any pupil felt sure he or she knew the answer. As was ever the case Jason’s hand shot up and his teacher smiled somewhat smugly.
“OK Jason, you can guess first. Where was I?”
“You were in Siberia miss” was the rapid reply. He then proceeded to state the name of the nearby town and the village in which she had stayed.
The teacher was stunned and asked, “How could you know that Jason?”
“My aunty Norah went this summer. We looked at it on maps at home Miss. That’s her in the white bobble hat on the back row.”
I’m ashamed to say, I could not help but laugh. This was exactly the sort of thing that happened in Jason’s life.
Incidentally, to those teachers who might read this, you might like to know that (to Jason’s disappointment) the £10 was handed to his Mum after school, to be spent on him.

The next thing I remember about Jason was receiving a phone call on a Monday morning from the manager of a very busy and successful multi-storey department store in town, after it had rained solidly all weekend. He was demanding that I give Jason a firm dressing down. It seems that Jason had been in the shop on Saturday morning just as the footwear department had run out of Wellington Boots. The manager of Footwear had put a sign up on a big bit of cardboard saying:




On seeing this, it seems a thought had entered Jason’s young mind and, whilst nobody was looking, he had taken the sign and managed to find a chair in the cosmetics department that was by the front door. With the rain hammering down outside he had put that sign leaning on the chair and facing the street for all to see as they entered. Within half an hour there were dozens of pairs of Wellington Boots lined up against the walls, as customers were coming in, taking them off and proceeding in socks. It turns out that a few had made their annoyance about this “ridiculous ban on sensible footwear” known to the manager. It seems that Jason would have got away with it except for the fact that a parent, who worked at the store, had seen him carrying the sign downstairs to the main entrance and thought it odd. Later of course the pieces of the puzzle had fitted together. I duly obliged the manager but it was a terrible struggle keeping a straight face.

My final memory of Jason was as a 11 year old. Once again I received a phone call filled with outrage from a member of the public. Once again, unknown to him, he had been seen by a parent (everyone knew Jason) walking up the hill towards the local cemetery. He had been carrying a pair of arms from a shop window dummy that had been thrown in a skip behind a famous department store. He had taken the arms and stuck them in just the “right” place, seeming to be reaching out of a very recent grave. The result had caused the visiting family some shock. 

I do not pass any judgement on this or indeed any of his acts. That is entirely up to you. The memory of Jason’s however is super-glued into my brain cells. Many years later Jason returned with his family to visit his old school. He had become a software engineer for Hewlett Packard with a lovely family and very well brought up children.

Moral: Let’s not be too hasty to condemn eccentricity.