The Missing Lesson 4 – The Nit Nurse

Lesson 4 in Social Acceptance

My first Head of Department was a wonderful woman.  She didn’t have a teaching background. She came from the business world.  She was probably attracted to teaching when she had children, because in those days teachers didn’t have to do any schoolwork in the holidays and they left school in the afternoon with the pupils.  She taught the Opportunity classes and French, because she had lived in France for a while and language teachers were hard to come by.  I have a feeling she started off in Business Studies or “Commercial” as it was known then, and gravitated into our area when the comprehensives started.

She was a star.  All her advice was practical, constructive and to the point.

“Put your hair up!” was the first thing she said to me.  I had 60s flowing locks.  Think Jean Shrimpton/Marianne Faithful.

In our region we had what was known as the Super Nit.  It was resistant to the majority of common treatments.  One day each half-term was Nit Nurse day.  It had a festival atmosphere.  The entire work of the school was disrupted, as every class was lined up to have their heads checked.  They filed in one by one and emerged waving their cards.  The card was to tell your Mam you had nits and to do something about it.

I was astonished later to find that in some other places you had to stay at home till the infestation was eradicated.  In our neck of the woods that would have ravaged the school population like the Black Death.

There was no shame attached to nits.  Nobody called you names or pointed fingers or shunned you.  There was just a cheerful acceptance of human frailty.  Nit Nurse days taught me early on the power of mutual support in the face of life’s random adversities.

So not all the lessons I learnt from my pupils had to take the form of personal tuition, one-to-one.  Sometimes they taught me as a group and a community.

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