Thursday, February 23, 2012

Who's a Naughty Girl?

One day, a few years after my father died, my mother told me something that I never knew as a child. It quite shocked me for a while. However, as the years have passed I've come to see it as rather amusing.

Now that something was that all those years ago when my parents went off to the annual parents evening when I was between the ages of eleven and eighteen my father never actually went into the school. Instead, he sat outside in the car smoking his pipe whilst my mother faced the music alone.

And to think there I was sweating it out at home every year waiting for my father's brutal feedback! I say "brutal" not because father was physically brutal but because a thorough verbal whipping would have been well deserved. Now as far I remember, my mother would usually come in the door with a drawn look and say something like "Mr Gibson/Miller/Collins/Smith/Davies says you need to stop messing around and do some work and "Mrs Ticehurst says you've got to stop clowning around and pull your finger out." (Yes, all of my teachers pretty much said the same thing.) At this point my father would grunt, relight his pipe and then they would both pour a drink of whatever their favourite tipple was at the time. I seem to remember one year it was Advocat, another year it was Creme De Menthe. Although, to be honest, after most parents evenings I think they went straight for the hard stuff and got out the Malt.

And then I would think to myself; "How the hell did I get away with just that!"

Now as I said, I was a bit upset about this when I first heard this nugget of information and thought it was a tad unfair on my mother to have taken all the flack. However, I guess my father must have had his reasons, especially as he was a headmaster himself with an enviable reputation. It would have been excruciating to get an earful about his own daughter, especially after my very well behaved elder brother and sister had already passed through the school with a fistful of merit badges. And then of course, then along came me...somewhat nosier, not quite so diligent and bit of a nuisance at times.

Now my father never said it to my knowledge - but if he had said my existence was a sound reason for not following the rhythm method I wouldn't haven't blamed him.

Hmm..maybe I shouldn't talk about the rhythm method - as a woman who accidentally succeeded in getting pregnant on her wedding night I can't really speak with any authority on contraception. Other than to say - it was a mistake! I didn't mean for it to happen! I was actually envisaging at least three or four years of decadent holidays, sunbathing nude in the back garden and generally annoying people at work. But no, lo and behold, shortly after those marriage vows I end up wiping bottoms and scrubbing baby bottles. And those were just Mr T's. Master Sam was a doddle in comparison...

Anyhow, what brought these reflections on was that I was tidying my study again (anything to avoid housework) and I found my old school reports. Oh, I thought, maybe I wasn't all that naughty at school. And then I read them...

No,  I'm not got post the really bad reports because if I ever get short-listed for the Nobel/Man Booker/Orange/ Most stupidest Person Prize they may come back to haunt me. However, here's a few that made me laugh....

Needlework 1978 (aged 13)

Jane has taken a slower approach to this subject during this term's course,when more aspects could have been attempted. A pleasing standard of work was finally achieved.

This is what I call a bland report which actually is a polite way of saying I did very little. I seem to recall we made a Hessian bag that year - the "slower approach" refers to the fact that I sewed the Hessian bag to my skirt by accident.

Home Economics 1978 ( aged 13)

Has worked well and shown a good deal of interest in her work.

Note that the teacher doesn't refer to me by name - which means she couldn't recall who I was - this stacks up because the only interest I had in Home Economics was eating the ingredients.

German 1979 (aged 14)

Jane is a very pleasant girl to teach. She works well, and if she continues to apply herself she should meet with success.

Ho, ho, ho,- what a creep I was in German!  But the truth was it was German - I was shit scared of the consequences of not doing my homework. Oh, and I actually ended up failing my O level with an ungraded. I know, it's hard to believe - but three choruses of  Stille Nacht and O Tannenbaum won't get you through an exam however hard you try.

Religious Education 1979 (aged 14)

Jane gained 81% in the summer examinations. Well done!

81%?  And I only got a "Well done" ? By modern standards 81% equivalent to an A++++++++ . I therefore pronounce myself a genius and await numerous scholarships, awards etc etc.

German 1980 (aged 15)

Jane has not an analytical mind and takes time to absorb German grammar.

Hmm. Maybe Dr Hammer was smarter than I thought? "Dr Hammer" was the teacher's real name by the way. He was a German teacher's equivalent to Simon Cowell. To which I reiterate - three choruses of Stille Nacht and O Tannebaum won't get you through German O Level.

Chemistry 1980 ( aged 15)

Test result 14%

It was a fix I swear. I loved Chemistry. Really I did.

English 1981 (aged 16)

I do not know if Jane can make sufficient improvement in her writing style to succeed in her examinations in June.

Written by the indomitable Mrs Ticehurst. Okay, so I didn't actually laugh at this one but I smiled with affection. Mrs Ticehurst (I wrote about her here) was the best teacher I ever had. She knew how to get the best out of me, even if that meant taking me down a peg or two and humiliating me in class. I proved her wrong - which was her intention. You don't get many teachers like her today because most of them are too afraid to operate outside of the box. She died about 4 years ago. I read her obituary and shed a tear or two.

So there you have it - more insight into my life. Cripes, it's pretty bad isn't it? And I didn't even mention Metalwork and Mathematics....

Anyway, I can sort of see why my father took the easy option. It was tough on my mother for sure - but hey at least they had some booze in the house!


  1. Think how boring it would be if you had followed in your siblings footsteps. Your parents were probably secretly grateful for keeping things entertaining.

    Geniuses are so beyond the whole traditional classroom thing. I do believe Einstein himself failed math.

  2. Did Einstein fail Maths Marie? Really? Cripes:)

    Wow. I can't tell you how thrilled I am. I failed maths three times at O level!

    There is hope for me yet:))

  3. Tee hee! Bring back the days when teachers had to think up original and inventive ways of saying 'I have no idea who this kid is' or 'this one's a real slacker but very polite and docile'. For a totally patronising 'Star Challenge', they could put their minds to thinking of legal ways to say 'this one's a complete hooligan and will probably end up in prison/pregnant at 14 (or both)'.

    What do they do? They use pre-formed phrases off some computer software. Imagine the ads. for such a package; 'Need a 'Teacher's Little Helper?' It's here! Use our vague and polite sentences to keep the parents in a haze of ignorance as they delight in reading (nonsense like) 'Johnny has excelled at number and understands the concept of building bricks'. You will be home by 3.45! Only £3,000.'

  4. Mrs B - never a more true and more timely comment on my blog! And a most amusing way of saying what a pile of shit we are fed as parents. The education system is totally up shit creek and, it seems, no one is prepared to do anything about it.

    I am in a virulent mood tonight after Master Ben's coach told me earlier this evening that Master B broke down on court and said Mrs E was picking on him in class. I assume this is because of my complaint....So now another saga begins. I am tired of complaining and having to fight an uphill battle. It is making me sour and bitter which are characteristics I do not like in myself. It may be time to move to another school if Ben is up for it.

  5. My goodness, Mrs T! Are things really that bad? It makes me think. I think it was the very same lady (Mrs E) who referred to my Darling Son as 'a nerd' in front of the whole class. I think she meant it as some kind of joke but DS was upset enough to mention it to me - and he doesn't complain often. Since then, all the pointers suggest that kids there have a hard time if they are seen to be at all better than bogstandard 'average'. I thought that was just coming from the other children but - the teachers as well?

    I've heard the only other school I might possibly consider for DS is full. Hmmn.

  6. Well that's very interesting Mrs B - all I can say is that Mrs E doesn't appear to me to be the kind of woman who tells a joke well and should probably avoid calling a child a "nerd" if it is in anyway open to interpretation other than an extremely light-hearted joke - and that in my opinion is very difficult to handle with a child of so young an age.

    We will see what happens this week Mrs B. I am disappointed and disillusioned with the education system but the cold light of day says it is unlikely to be any better in any of the other schools in the locality. Bullying though, or whatever is happening in the classroom to upset Ben, I will not tolerate at all.

    I am in Coventry today at the tennis centre - there is a Costa so at least I am warm whilst I contemplate this issue and how it is to be handled.


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