One of the sports teachers was predictably sadistic and gave us a foundation course in stress positions. Minor misdemeanours were rewarded with the culprit facing a wall with knees bent and arms parallel to the floor. A piece of paper was held against a wall by the nose. If the paper fell to the floor, the victim would be beaten with a gym shoe. It had no effect whatsoever on our poor class behaviour.
However, there are always teachers who made your schooldays and, for me, there were two. The first was Mr Luger, the History teacher, who was very down to earth and a friend to most of the pupils. History happened to be my favourite subject, but he made it come alive and his good-humoured nature made History and school life all the better. Then there was Mr Ellis, the French teacher. He was a disciplinarian and often lectured us about behaviour and life in assemblies. He gave us daily boot inspections with detention meted out to the scruffiest kids. Mr Ellis was one of those stand-out characters in life. A fine man. I hope he knew what a truly positive influence he had on me.
The teachers worked us hard. I passed Art O-level a year early and my favourite band, The Specials, sang about that very thing only the year before. The relationship between my classmates and most of the teachers was strained and we were consistently reprimanded for unacceptable conduct. We thought the teachers said this to every class and took no notice whatsoever. In my final year, I was officially told that I wasn’t responsible enough to become a prefect. Mr Ellis took me to one side and said he wanted me to be a prefect, but there were just too many teachers against the idea. It may have installed a strong dislike of authority in me but, no matter, my friends and I spent the final year ignoring any attempt by the prefects to boss us about.
O-level results day was not a good one. I’d stuffed up half of them, only passing five in total. I put the effort in but something just didn’t click. Still, I was leaving school and there was a final awards ceremony to attend. I won the History prize and my friends all turned up for a last goodbye. As we waited outside the hall full of parents and teachers, the headmaster took six of us to his office and said he wasn’t going to let us into the awards ceremony due to the way were dressed.
Admittedly, some of my friends were in jeans and T-shirts, but I was wearing a collared shirt and trousers. I challenged the headmaster, who pointed out I wasn’t wearing a tie. I said several of the headmaster’s favourites weren’t wearing ties either, but they were allowed into the hall. A heated discussion followed. The shyness ebbed away as I hammered home the headmaster’s double-standards. My friends joined in. We were still barred from the ceremony. The teachers had become increasingly agitated by the misbehaviour of our class, but for it to unnecessarily descend to this. Bad words were exchanged and, feeling like I’d been stabbed in the back, I left school.