The Wrong Lesson – A short story

The Wrong Lesson 


It didn’t go quite to plan, but that was okay, things generally didn’t.

“So, it all went wrong?” Elliot asked.

Gareth squirmed in his seat. “That might be taking it too far,” he replied. He laid out his sandwiches, poured a coffee out of the pot and settled into a seat at the table. Next to him, a pile of exercise books—they needed marking by tomorrow.

“I saw Kyle in the first aid room,” Elliot remark.

“Yes…he had a nose bleed.” Gareth’s lesson had begun auspiciously. Kyle bled all over his blazer and tie.

“He’s been headbutting again. What was it this time? A wall?” Elliot was supposed to be writing reports or something.

Gareth’s memory of the incident was a little vague. He’d been sorting out the whiteboard projector. “Uhm. Wall maybe. He’s not particular about what he hits, so I gather.”

“What else went wrong then?” Elliot persisted.

The door to the staff room swung open. Belinda dropped her bag on the table: three mobiles tumbled out.

“More confiscations?” Elliot noted.

“They formed a quorum, a little nest in the corner of the classroom, texting each other. One would think they’d forgotten how to talk, but they protested quite loudly when I took away their phones.” Belinda detested texting. Her spelling evaluations had plummeted and she took offence at any abbreviations or emoticons. One girl had handed in a piece of work entirely composed of emoijs. Gareth thought it was inspirational, almost like artwork. Belinda had made the girl stay in at break and write it out in longhand. Much to the English teacher’s consternation, the child failed to spell a single word wrong.

Smiling, Belinda locked the mobiles in a cupboard. She counted up the hoard, “Six so far.”

“Going for that record?” Elliot asked. “Mark’s fifteen in one day.”

“One went off in my lesson,” Gareth admitted. “Couldn’t work out who had it. They’re so good at that stony face denial. And, they band together, won’t snitch at all.”

“So disappointing, isn’t it?” Belinda tossed her handbag back over her shoulder. “I’m braving the dining room today.” She left, her high heels clicking on the floor.

“So…” Elliot’s interrogation resumed. “One bloody nose and a rogue mobile.”

Gareth couldn’t eat. The headache remained, the nausea unabated. “Yes, the first few minutes weren’t exactly productive.”

Two more teachers entered the staff room, both seeking sanctuary during the lunch hour. Cheryl joined Gareth at the table. Her Tupperware container filled to the brim with salad. She picked at the lettuce.

“Anything go wrong?” she asked.

Why was everyone so damn obsessed with his lesson? “The whiteboard projector wouldn’t work.”

“3B was it?” Cheryl enquired. “That room is a disaster. Whoever designed an L-shaped classroom should be shot. There’s a blind spot.”

“Yes,” said Gareth. “It’s perfect for hiding.”

Taylor and Malcolm spent the whole lesson playing cards—he’d not noticed them. There was something to be said for patrolling the perimeter of a classroom every few minutes. He would know for next time.

“What did you do instead?” piped up Bryan. “I hate it when technology fails. It means I have to talk.”

Bryan believed Youtube was an invaluable resource for teaching—streaming demonstrations of woodwork. Fine for a DT teacher, history however wasn’t so reproducible.

“I asked Cassie Owen to read aloud,” Gareth announced.

“Cassie Owen!” The collective exclamation surprised Gareth. She wasn’t that bad.

“Yes…she actually read quite well, considering the chewing gum in her mouth.”

“But, she’s excluded,” Elliot informed. His eyebrows rose to meet his hairline.

Gareth paused, trying to remember the list of excluded pupils. She’d been caught in the girls toilets, ramming another girl’s head into the bowl, but that had been a few weeks ago, hadn’t it?

“Why would she come into school?” he pondered. “I mean, it’s not as if she enjoys it.”

“Oh, she does,” Cheryl declared. “Loves it, she told me. It’s boring at home. Nothing to do, miss,” she imitated Cassie’s whining really well. “I expect she snuck in. She’s much better behaved when she’s excluded. Should keep her excluded all the time. It’s like the moment she’s not allowed something, she wants it.”

“Well, she put a lot of effort into describing the Crimean War. All guts and blood,” recalled Gareth. “I’m not sure Florence Nightingale wrote that kind of thing.”

“She’s a vivid imagination,” agreed Bryan. “The things she makes out of wood—stakes, especially. Very good at pointy things.”

Gareth believed Cassie’s obsession with vampires had gotten a little out of control. It was something to do with books she’d read, or films.

“Of course, the other problem with 3B is the lack of windows.” Gareth didn’t need Cheryl reminding him. It was particularly challenging teaching in the dark.

The room had a light switch, but it also had motion detectors. The headteacher’s idea of energy saving. Remarkably, the whole class had learnt that sitting perfectly still cast the room into darkness, at which point they hooted like owls. A cacophony of noises that had given Gareth his headache.

Fortunately, movement reactivate the lights, although only after what felt like a lengthy pause. He’d developed the ability to dance on the spot the moment the lights went out. The kids laughed heartedly when he reappeared, waving his arms frantically. The caretaker should be told that the detector was best directed at the teacher, not the children.

So things hadn’t gone according to his lesson plan. But wrong? How wrong was it to improvise, use one’s initiative when a fight breaks out? He’d stepped between the warring parties immediately, quickly recreating the charge of the light brigade between two rows of desks.

Elliot patted his shoulder. “Don’t fret, Gareth, student teachers are always given the hardest classes. Toughens you up. I’m sure you won’t be judged too harshly.”

Gareth’s half-eaten sandwich lay untouched on the napkin. Of all the lessons to be observed, the inspector had to pick his. The wrong one.


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