‘Nothing tests your patience quite like teaching dreadful little boys’

Oct 27, 2020
It takes a thick skin and a sense of humour to teach naughty youngsters, as Julie recalls. Source: Getty

Lighting up another cigarette, I shuddered as the staffroom door was flung open.

“What are you going to do about your dreadful boys?” shrieked the slightly hysterical Prep teacher.

“What have they done now?” I hesitantly asked, smoking, thinking, “You dirty rats, dirty rats, dirty rats.”

“They’re under my classroom, smoking and looking at porn with the little kids, for money!”

“I shall confiscate the lot in a minute,” I said, desperately craving another fag.

“Your dreadful boys.”

Yes, these were the same boys who had been sacked en masse as altar boys, for swiping the plate, and drinking the parish priest’s stash of communion wine. Now they had started as free agents for their boss, the local newsagent.

They were paperboys, roaming around the neighbourhood at dawn on bicycles, delivering newspapers. Their boss had supplies of cigarettes, bright Textas and expensive pens, and, of course, his range of pornography. I needed some more smokes anyway, so I confiscated my dreadful boys’ cigarettes, a constant part of my job, and then ritually burnt their porno books in the school incinerator.

“What are you doing about your dreadful boys?” I heard that every year about my grade of latter-day Neanderthals. That year, they were particularly vocal and naughty.

We would kick off the day with maths. The dirty rats had joined rubber bands to their rulers, playing air guitars as they sang, “We don’t need no education!” (Spell that any way you like). Being from tough teaching stock, my dreadful boys learned the error of their ways, with lunchtime detention on what is still, years later, known as the naughty boys’ seat, right in front of the principal’s office.

After this sordid day of teaching tales, I headed off to visit my little sister and her first baby. Yes, a cute, bouncing bundle of boy babe in arms. Not talking or walking yet, I noted.

My sister totally refused to believe any son of hers could ever misbehave like those dreadful boys. Wind the clock forward four or five years. My sister now had four children under five years old. Walking to her letter box one rainy day, her eldest son locked the door behind her. Despite her yells and threats, he and his siblings refused to let her in. She went to the back door, locked too. My sister peered through the window to the laundry. There were flames appearing from the tumble dryer, while the washing machine was overflowing suds.

My little sister, despairing and in a panic by then, found another mother at home in her street. They phoned a locksmith. Gaining entrance to the house, she found her my naughtiest nephew, sitting behind the drapes, with a container of chocolate ice cream, and mess everywhere.

Furious, she phoned her husband. “Come and get your sons, take them back to the maternity unit where they came from! I am going to breed dogs instead! And we need an electrician and a plumber as well, right now!”

Just another day of motherhood.

Meanwhile, back in my classroom, four of my long-gone Pink Floyd boy band turned up to see me. Their hair was tidy and combed, their shoes shone, they were wearing jackets, long strides, and had grown good manners.

One spoke up. “We’ve come to thank you. We won maths prizes and scholarships for further study and we want to get to university,” he said.

Having fainted dramatically, I was flabbergasted. Those were, my “dreadful boys”. Yes, your dreadful boys gave us all grey hair, a sense of humour and hides like elephants. Are your sons and grandsons dreadful too? Hang in there. I hope they all thank you one day for your doing the hard yards for them.

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