From Up with Skool (Puffin)
by Roger McGough
Imagine a dragon: fierce, with yellow fangs and evil-smelling breath: bulging eyes and green scaly skin. If you can imagine that dragon with nail varnish on its claws, wearing a brown tweed suit and ginger hair tied up in a bun, then you can imagine Miss Bolger.
Miss Bolger, the scourge of Junior 2. Terror of the Tongue, Attila the Bun. She was a sorceress who could turn a classroom into a torture chamber and with a wave of her magic cane turn 30 infants into quivering jellies. She taught us the 3 Ss – sweating, stammering and skins (how to jump out of).
In complete contrast was Miss Davis, a dear, gentle old soul, who loved us all, even the lowliest and smelliest (even Lacey). Her lessons came gift-wrapped, because the reward for a correct answer would often be a sweet and for everyone there was a smile and a word of encouragement.
We repaid her kindness by occasionally locking her in the bookroom, and putting cockroaches in her spectacle case.
As I grew older, my legs grew shorter and my trousers longer, so I went to grammar school, where most of the schoolmasters were men. Here, the good, the bad, and the ugly swept through classrooms breathing not fire, but vulgar fractions, Latin verbs and laws of physics. Great gollups of information which passed through my brain like steam through a football net.
To help liven up the lessons, they used black leather straps and how well I remember lazy summer afternoons, the droning of bees outside, the lilt of the strap and the howling of little boys within. We gave them nicknames ‘The Last Count’ (always out before the bell), ‘The Tooleater’ (3¶ pints every lunchtime… i.e., the two-litre), and ‘Rumblintum.’
There was one particular thug I remember with affection, who, as well as being President of the N.S.P.C.C. (National Society for the Promotion of Cruelty to Children) was the gym master. S.A.S.-trained, his hobbies were shouting and bruising, and woe betide any boy who forgot his pumps or put his underpants on back to front (or vice versa). But even though his brain was muscle-bound, he had a nice sense of humour and would always laugh heartily if somebody fell off the wall-bars or dropped a bench on their toe.
But, like everyone else, I survived and as I grew older I got to know and to like many of those whom at first I believed came from Outer Space. Teachers, those strange beings who live on the other side of the blackboard. Who eat chalk and talk in loud riddles.
Some nights I wake up sweating after a nightmare, in which I had to lie to attention ` for two hours and not make a sound. On waking, I realize Miss Bolger had been in charge of my sleep. Of course, she’s hung up her cane, and long since departed this life. But I bet she’s still bossing kids around somewhere. Miss Bolger, now in Paradise Junior School, making the infant angels cross their wings and sit up straight. Putting the fear of God into them. It must be hell.
TOM: Sometimes I like teachers.
TOM: When they are at home.What has a teacher got that we haven’t?
The answer book.
‘My teacher’s got a new car.’
‘What make is it?’
‘It’s a Rolls Canardly.’
‘Never heard of it.’
‘Haven’t you! It rolls down one hill and can ‘ardly get up the next.’
HEADMASTER: Mrs Smith I’m proud of your teaching and your class work. How do you manage to keep on your toes with such lively children?
TEACHER: They put drawing pins on my chair.
Relief teachers are so called because its such a relief when they leave.
From The Beaver Book of School Verse, illustrations by Graham Thompson
Mrs Bond is nice she shouts
and makes me jump
and when she says get
your sum books out I
nearly faint and when she
says put on your pumps I
think I run round the world
and I run across the playground
and when she says run I run and when
she says jump I jump
Kevin Brown (aged 6)
Up with Skool, pictures by Quentin Blake. Puffin, 0 14 03.1436 9, 80p, is a collection of jokes, riddles and limericks sent in by children. Organised in 12 sections each one is introduced by anecdote and recollection from the famous and the funny (Cyril Smith on School Dinners, Roald Dahl on punishments, Roger McGough on Teachers). Puffin hope it will be as successful as Crack-a-Joke and The End. As children never seem to tire of the same hoary old jokes it probably will.
The Beaver Book of Skchool Verse (Spelling correction – in red. Bets are being hedged at Beaver!) is chosen by Jennifer Curry, pictures by Graham Thompson. 0 600 20321 2, 95p. Jennifer Curry acknowledges help from friends, teachers, parents, children and has produced an assortment of poems organised, like Up with Skool, under headings: Going to School, In the Classroom, School Dinners, Sports, etc. It’s a wide ranging mixture of traditional (Anon), ancient (Herrick). old (de la Mare, Farjeon), modern (lots of McGough, Gareth Owen. Causley, Rosen) and a good sprinkling of children’s writing. Lots that’s well known but some nice linkings and juxtapositions.