Lesson 34 on Virtue Rewarded
I must have had “Mug” tattooed on my forehead. Every time someone wanted another body to make up the numbers on a school trip, they came to me. This time it was Mandy and her cronies who started lobbying me early in the spring term.
“Miss, Mr McGregor needs another teacher for the Choir Trip.”(Mr Mac was the Head of Music, not that there was anybody else in the department. It was a small school. He had been there a long time.)
“Where are you going?” I enquired, trying to think of somewhere even remotely musical they could possibly visit.
“It doesn’t matter, Miss! He just needs another teacher so he can book up the coach.”
“OK, I’ll talk to him about it,” I stalled for time.
“You don’t need to, Miss. We can tell him. He said if we could find another teacher we could have a Choir Trip. And you’re never doing anything, so you’ll be able to go!”. (One of the common perceptions of small group teaching, amongst pupils and staff alike, was that it was not proper school work, and thus could be deemed “doing nothing”.)
Alarm bells should have rung for me at this point, but I promised to give it favourable consideration. The next thing I knew Mr Mac was thanking me for my support.
“It’s always a nice day out!” he beamed. “I’ll take care of all the arrangements!” He was a short, bustling, fatherly man, who inspired confidence and trust. I allowed myself to be smiled into acceptance.
Trips took place in the summer term, when the weather might hopefully be sunny. Strangely in the months leading up to our trip, I came across no evidence of the school choir in action. However, as I was based at the opposite end of the building to the music room, this didn’t worry me as much as it should.
“Mandy, who else is going?” I asked as the day drew nearer. She ran through a few names not in my groups, but who I knew by reputation.
“I didn’t know they were good at singing,” I commented suspiciously.
“Oh they’re not, Miss!” replied Mandy, making a speedy escape.
Sondra was one of the names mentioned and it so happened she had to be removed from class that afternoon for bad behaviour. When pupils were sent out of class, they had to be sat with me, or the deputy head or the school nurse. Our rooms were conveniently next to one another just off the main corridor.
This gave me a chance to enquire further into the school choir.
“I didn’t realise you liked singing, Sondra!” I commented in my best interested teacher voice. Sondra looked at me scornfully.
“I don’t!” she snapped
“But you’re in the school choir?”
“There isn’t a school choir!”
“Then who goes on the Choir Trip!” I protested
“Miss, anyone can go on the Choir Trip if they collect enough merits in music.”
“How do you get your merits?”
“You just have to be good.”
“You mean good as in good and quiet? Good and well-behaved? Good and not getting into fights or talking back to the teacher?”
“That’s it, Miss!”
And so it was, when I went out to the coach on the morning of the Choir Trip, that every face in the group was one that had been excluded or banned from any other excursion. The other staff, watching with quiet satisfaction from the common room, looked forward to a day of unaccustomed peace and harmony. No wonder nobody had warned me!
The Choir Trip was the last resort of all who could neither excel in their work nor keep out of trouble. Mr Mac smiled on unperturbed.
“They’ll be as good as gold. Just you wait and see!”
We went to Kew Gardens. Mr Mac and I sat outside the tearoom in the sun. The pupils circled around, venturing further afield as they became bolder, but always returning to make sure we were still there. Every so often they would sit with us and chat.
On the way home they sang. The school choir, you might say!