You know how stories from your past disappear and then come back to you again, well this was one such story I re-told recently for the first time in a long while....
I was a teacher of a Year 6 class in a very tough school. It was tough because of the children's behaviour, the lack of support for staff and the general 'divide and rule' tactics of the leadership i.e. very little team playing! That sets the scene a bit.
On this particular day, the kids had all come back to class after lunchtime especially full of 'issues' - more so than normal. So and so had done this and that to so and so etc, etc. They were in a terrible state and I knew that the planned history lesson was unlikely to be less than a good ten minutes away - due to the necessity of significant calming down. So I changed tack and decided we would go back outside and let off steam in an organised physical activity way.
My class loved hockey. Despite each pupil having such a potentially dangerous tool to hand, hockey lessons always went surprisingly well. So I sent a handful of kids to the equipment cupboard to grab six hockey sticks each and bring them to the edge of the playing field (right next to the mobile I was in). No sooner had the hockey sticks arrived, a boy from another class came over to say,
"Mrs Paley says it's her allocated afternoon for games and that you must put the hockey sticks back into the cupboard." To which I rationally replied,
"Games does not start for another hour and a quarter. Can you tell Mrs Paley that the sticks will be returned to the cupboard well before then." and off he trotted. He returned a minute later with,
"Mrs Paley insists you return the hockey sticks now because we have games this afternoon." I replied with restraint,
"Can you please assure Mrs Paley that as soon as we see anyone from your class getting ready for games, the sticks will be returned to the cupboard instantly."
The time he took to deliver his messages was time enough for my momentarily unsupervised class to start seeing the weapon potential in the sticks they were holding and I had to set some quick warm up tasks before things got out of hand.
The boy returned just as a child in my class was about to attack another.
"Mrs Paley says the sticks must be returned to the cupboard now."
I snapped, "Tell Mrs Paley that she's a stupid old bag." No sooner had the words left my mouth, I knew I had messed up a tad. The boy (who apparently was a 'bit of a character') took pleasure in returning to the class and stating in front of it, "Miss Potter says you're a stupid old woman.' (He toned me down a bit!)
In this school you could send a message to the office to say there was a child across the field throwing bricks onto the cycle path and that you were teaching and not free to leave the class and receive a return message saying, 'deal with it yourself.' So I was surprised at the swiftness by which the deputy headteacher was sent to relieve me to get me into the headteacher's office. I am not sure what happened to the hockey sticks at this point!
I went straight to 'sirs' office to find the messenger boy, Mrs Paley and the headteacher sitting looking very glum. The head says,
"Tell Miss Potter what you said she said," he barked at the boy for it was apparent they believed he must have made the whole thing up as a teacher would surely never say such a thing!
"She told me to tell Mrs Paley that she was a stupid old woman." They were still looking at him, clearly very angry by his abhorrent rudeness.
"Well Miss Potter," says the head, still not looking at me, "did you say that?" Time stopped for a while while in my head I went something like...
...can't blame the boy...a tiny bit tempting though...but I couldn't lie....poor kid's done nothing wrong....but what about how unreasonable she was about the hockey sticks...that hasn't been mentioned...don't think I can bring it up as mitigating circumstances...shame....gonna have to come clean...'
The boy was hurriedly removed from the office and I was given a lecture about never having to have called my professionalism into question before and the course of action to take would need to be considered.
Thankfully, nothing was made official and I was given an 'informal' warning. Imagine having 'called a colleague a stupid old bag' written on your records...I'd never have worked again.