Friday 1 February 2019

The Bully

For weeks now he had been harassing her.

 Their first interview had gone badly. He had suggested that he might change the nature of her contract and had offered her someone else’s job.
She had stated that it wasn’t in her nature to rise at the cost of someone else’s fall. The teacher he was proposing to drop from the programme was more skilled than she was, had been there longer etc etc.

She’d taken the moral high ground. That had been a mistake. She had cast him as a petty tyrant wielding his sword and herself as some truth crusader. It wasn’t a good fit. She didn’t even like the teacher in question and the feeling was mutual, but she disliked the new principal even less.

Then there’d been the discrimination problem. Sarah, a member of the traveller community, never brought a book to the English class. Kate had allowed her to share with another pupil for days, but enough was enough.

“Didn’t you get a copy of Silas Marner, Sarah?”
“No, I don’t think so.”
“If you go to the office the secretary will check up on it.”
“Like now?”
“Now would be good.”

The teenager struggled to her feet, made a great din about manoeuvring out of her seat, knocked over a book or two and slammed the door on her exit. She didn’t return to class that period.

Kate checked with the secretary. Sarah hadn’t gone near the office.

A week later she sailed into the classroom, still bookless. Kate reckoned that a confrontation would be entertainment for the rest of them and serve only to prolong this agonising trawl through nineteenth century literature. Kate refrained from asking the question. But Sarah wanted to make a point.

“Miss, I don’t have a book. The secretary wasn’t there the other day. I waited for ages.”
“That’s not what I was told, Sarah.”

But Kate had an alternative strategy in place. She pulled out a copy of Silas and gave it to her.
“Now you have it. Page thirty three….”
“You think of everything, Miss.”

Sarah didn’t take part in much of the discussion. She was chewing gum. It’s forbidden, of course, but frankly Kate would rather they chewed gum than disrupt the class.
“They’ll all be chewing it tomorrow!” warned a colleague.
Quiet class! Could do with that. “Let them chew gum,” Kate declared. “Vive le gum!”

But next day Sarah arrived minus Silas.
“Forgot it,” she muttered by way of excuse.
“Well, that’s a pity because you can’t share with Emily.”

The sharing exercise usually resulted in low key chatter, a background hum Kate could be doing without.

“Not fair!” Sarah announced.

That day the principal hauled Kate into his office and accused her of discrimination against a traveller. She laughed in his face.
“What I said I would have said to any student.”
“You needed to be more sensitive in this case.”
“I need to treat her exactly the way I treat the others."
“What’s the problem with sharing books?”
“Maybe you should go back to teaching and try it out.”
“And you didn’t check up on her when she didn’t return to class.”
“What? and leave the rest of them sitting there twiddling their thumbs or worse! She’s over sixteen. Not an infant.”
“She doesn’t like you. Now there’s another problem.”
“Do you honestly think I care if every student I teach likes me or not? She’s not the first and won’t be the last. I’m not listening to any more of your drivel without a union rep present.”

She probably shouldn’t have called it drivel and referred to it specifically as his. She was on her feet and heading for the door. He was apoplectic, face beetroot, looking like he was mid seizure. When she was half way down the stairs he was still yelling after her, to the great amusement of a group of students on morning-break.

That’s when it started. The door knocking, the interruptions. She had hardly begun any lesson than he was at the door calling the roll, checking up on a student, asking about fire alarms, school surveys, parent teacher meetings, exam reports. He had an endless repertoire of spurious excuses for being there.
Sometimes he repeated this exercise a couple of times during the period. And on it went.

“I could go to the Union. It could end up in High Court. It could rumble on for years and swallow up my life. Lawyers could get fat on it; I could get thin,. They could bring in legislation declaring that: Students must be allowed to share books in school! Why not a referendum?  It could cost the Irish tax payer a small ransom! ” she declared.

 In the end, like Paul on the road to Damascus, she had an epiphany. She made a large poster that declared:

Recording in Progress.
Do not enter.

They did actually do some recording and since several programmes required it and since he hadn’t a clue about any of the programmes, it worked.

Copyright with Cathy Leonard 2019

1 comment:

  1. I love this! The joys of teaching!! And teenagers!