Svinik Posted December 1, 2013 Report Share Posted December 1, 2013 I've just finished reading my father's fourth book on his old grammar school (jointly written with his brother who is also an old boy, covering the period 1946-1975). Some of the recollections from old boys on their masters indicate that some of the masters were - er - possessed of strong and individualistic personalities. Clearly being a poor and undutiful son I often found myself wondering whether some of the professors would have got on in Academagia and which RL professors had Academagia analogues. Also, admittedly, thinking that my own school had clearly been somewhat quieter and safer than my father's. A few of the (slightly edited down) quotes from old-boys about their beloved professors which explains their characters, and indicates some of the pranks that the old boys got up to. 1. An officer and a gentleman He was, in addition to his scientific background, an accomplished linguist - in addition to his knowledge of Serbo-Croat and Russian, I can remember him speaking German on a railway platform as we travelled to Switzerland; he learned some Norwegian, prior to our trip to Norway and I expect that he managed to make himself understood on all the trips that he led. It is only when one thinks of his teaching of both scientific subjects and, what was then, a rather unfashionable and rare language, and his very varied life before and during WW2 that one realises what an accomplished man he was and what an interesting life he had. 2. X taught me chemistry, but what an inspiration! I was one of the most interested as it was my university subject, but X trusted me to work alone in the labs at lunchtimes and during breaks on projects. I doubt it would be permitted today, and even then that degree of trust was rare. He told me what extra books to read to get ahead of A-level syllabus - again much appreciated. I also remember him in charge of the "second-hand" shop - that enabled the less well-off (like me) to buy "used but good" rugby kit. A very kind man. I had absolutely no idea he was a jazz pianist. He was the reason I taught chemistry, but he was a dangerous person to be with. On one occasion he left some glassware out for my wife to clean and when she poured water on it, it burst into flames. 3. If you were ever kicked out of Mr Y's class, you made your way round and let X see you, he would beckon you in and put you in the back of the class he was teaching. Mr X taught mathematics and was an excellent teacher. What could not be introduced at one end was introduced at the other by the Gym shoe (Slipper). His "old Spanish custom", was the invitation to form a right angle intended to help in the retention of the wisdom that he imparted. In the absence of X we experimented with the production of water gas into the bottom opening of the stove, the steam rising through the coke produced inflammable gases which exploded when they came into contact with the air at the top of the stove. The ash that was blown out gave the game away. 4. Nice man, no nonsense engineer. Always calm and unflustered in metalwork. He kind of blended into the workshop. Always there to help and advise; respected and his lessons were fun, so needed little discipline. When it transpired that a couple of us were taking metalwork O level but not engineering drawing ["ED"], he laid on extra lessons in ED for us, this was essential as about 50% of the exam was reading and making drawings! While we covered 2 years work in 2 terms ED is still a great love of mine. 5. When he could, he would come by you and ask you to explain what you had done up to the point where you had become stuck. By careful questioning he invariably led you to discover your error but he never chastised you for it. I recall his introduction to 5th form pupils on the lines that if you were not interested in mathematics that was ok - you could just keep quiet in a corner and he would leave you alone. On the other hand if you so desired he would do his very best to help you. 6. I decided to slide down the banisters backwards. The first flight was fine and I carefully negotiated the turn to the lower flight. As I arrived at the bottom going full speed I felt a very sharp pain on my backside. Standing at one side with slipper in hand was a semi-stern X exercising his Prefect's Duties. No detention, just instant and very effective retribution. Can anyone remember 'pirates' at the end of term gym lesson? X would have all the fun apparatus in the hall - beams, wall bars, ropes, vaulting horse etc and then strategically place gym mats on the floor or rather in the 'shark infested waters'. The 2 'pirates' hunted down their quarry while the latter ran, jumped and swung chaotically around the apparatus trying to avoid capture. 7. "When he refereed Rugby House Matches we often saw the eccentric sight of a game starting with 2 or 3 players per side, with the rest struggling to get onto the pitch" "It was unfortunate to teach a class just before he did. In those circumstances it was impossible to have an orderly ending to the lesson. The boys claimed that he did not have a question 1 in his tests because no boy ever got there until at least question 2." 8. I well remember Mr X's capacity for dropping off to sleep. At the end of a lesson the boys would creep out. I was timetabled to teach a sixth form in a room immediately after him. As a new master, I crept away and found a new room. 9. X was another teacher who struggled with my name. He rejected "[pupil's foreign name]" at a very early stage and decided that my name would be "Sugar Foot" and so it stayed for the whole period he taught me. We found a huge quantity of grasshoppers on the field during break and released them at the back of X's class - and him trying to swat them with his slipper. In the sixth form, if he thought his wife knew more of an author than he did, he would send us home for a tutorial with her. I will pass over the fact that we paid for this privilege by marking lower forms homework. She was an inspiration as well, with unlimited enthusiasm for writers she liked. What was so marvelous about X was not only that he required boys to mark their fellow pupils homework, but that his examination for the GCE boards was largely carried out by his wife, who I believe marked conscientiously rather than in X's case where he freely admitted he only read the first and last paragraphs. 10. Advice to pupil on the last day: "If you ever have to make a decision in future about two alternatives, make a guess and then change your mind, because you are so stupid that couldn't even guess correctly" Frankly I did not like the man. He was a "beat it into them" merchant. That said, for his chosen stars, he was a most effective, attentive and encouraging teacher. X spent the whole class telling us about his motor bike and whacking us with a foot rule. As the A-levels got closer he told us he had the most important exam of our lives upcoming - and then carried on about his bike. 11. X was far too accurate when throwing a board duster or a dig in the ribs, but useless at teaching physics... X - great builder of moral backbone X knew how to get your interest, especially if it involved hurting someone. Every boy's fun teacher, where whipping with rubber tubing was corporate fun and always fair and deserved. I can still see him playing in a cricket match, staff vs. boys and batting. A ball hurtled towards him (he wasn't very tall) and instead of ducking he deliberately used his head to glance it away over the slips for runs! There were no helmets or faceguards then, and the rules were less stringent, or maybe the umpires had never come across such a situation before! 12. Mr X simply could not keep order, We set out to bait him, to see if we could be the first to be get beaten with his "twanker", a flat piece of wood from a desk-front I think. One day I succeeded and was duly instructed to bend over - which I did facing him. I was extra sore that day as he took his revenge. 13. The cloudy memory makes them all good memories - X almost blowing the chem lab up on a weekly basis. A bit shy but could suddenly lose his temper. Couldn't remember pupil's names and was always saying "What's your name again?" I have always felt sorry for X. He seemed to be in a world of his own and every now and again he emerged to teach us. He struggled to control the class using the words, "uhh, now lads, settle down..." We arrived for the lesson to find the whole front bench packed full of glassware for an experiment which involves manufacturing methane. X said that the experiment was "...a bit dangerous" (he was a master of understatement at the best of times) so he had decided that he would demonstrate it to us. The experiment involved heating up a beaker with a Bunsen Burner to start the reaction. We all waited with baited breath. At the end of the line of glassware was a tiny test tube with a hole in it and we were promised faithfully that once the process was functional, X would put a match to the hole and we would see a small blue flame coming out of the end proving that methane gas was being produced. A few minutes passed by and nothing happened. A few more minutes passed and still no reaction. X struck his match and held it to the hole and nothing happened. Becoming agitated he went back to the other end of the glassware and turned up the Bunsen burner to a roar. A few seconds later he went back to the test tube end and struck his match... I remember a kind of thud, followed by tinkling, and the entire glassware disappeared in front of our eyes. X divided under the bench and we just sat there watching, transfixed. Silence. Then we saw one hand followed by another appear above the bench...followed by a pair of eyes and a nose and a quiet voice from below the bench said "is everyone alright?" The outrageous ####-taking that went on in every X lesson. Y throwing lit paper aeroplanes at the board, everyone sliding the desks into a single block and breaking the lock on the way out so that A and B had to climb out of the window at the front of the school I can remember the time that Y hid in X's desk the whole maths period (he was only little). He bet everyone 5p that he could and collected from us all. Even X saw the funny side and contributed with a smack around the head! Link to comment Share on other sites More sharing options...
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