Lesson 28 on Just when you think things can’t get worse….
My pupils at Airport Comprehensive taught me two main lessons in life:
- to make the best of the bad job life hands you
- to watch your back
The situation of the school, although bleak, offered a number of practical advantages. The airport offered plenty of opportunity for unskilled employment and/or criminal activity. There was no need to do well at your studies, such as they were.
The whole area around the airport was depressing and unattractive, consisting of mile after mile of sprawling estates and industrial parks. Between these were tracts of empty grassland, entirely flat and featureless. The advantage of these were that they offered short cuts between the various estates, inaccessible by vehicles (such as police cars). In the past these areas had been heath, dreaded by travellers on account of the clear and present danger of highwaymen. Over the centuries they had somehow retained the atmosphere of Badlands. Perhaps it was to do with the ley lines.
The only view from the various school buildings, apart from that of the sky overhead with its procession of planes coming in to land, was of the flat empty expanse of scrubby grass.
The windows in the school had those very large aluminium frames, designed to swing out from a central pivot point. You could throw anything out of them with ease – books, rucksacks, even items of furniture, thus providing an endless source of entertainment to those classrooms below you, as well as your own. Pupils were strictly banned from the building at break and lunchtimes for this reason and as many rooms as possible were kept locked, so it was only the members of staff who had to take care to keep well away from the sides of the building during lesson time.
On day I was teaching the dreaded 4R on the ground floor. I hated these lessons. I expect they did too. I taught them on Monday morning (not too bad, they were recovering from the weekend), Tuesday afternoon (always the worst, hyped up with fizzy drink and chips and playground fights) and Wednesday morning. At Wednesday lunchtime I gave up prayers of gratitude for having survived another week.
On this particular Tuesday afternoon I had in desperation given them a test. They were reasonably quiet, for them. Leanne, the most vocal and energetic trouble maker, was missing.
Suddenly the door was flung open and Leanne dashed in. Ignoring me completely she raced across the room heading for the open window in the far corner. Reaching it, she climbed up by means of her empty desk and clambered out of it, running off into the distance.
Before we could recover from this surprising turn of events, two policemen one after the other crashed into the room, followed the same route and set off in pursuit.
The class sat still, stunned for once by this unexpected novelty. They turned to me with anticipation to see how I would react.
“Get on with your work!” I snarled irritably.
They nodded with a small degree of grudging respect.
It was never going to be a easy relationship, but somehow I seemed to have passed a kind of secret unwritten test.