“It’s time for school!” “Do I have to go?” “Of course you do.” “But why, Mum?” “Because you’re the headteacher.”
Ah, a good old joke. The oldies are the best. They don’t make ‘em like that anymore. Except in fact they do, because every morning Muriel Stanhope spent at least half an hour coaxing her son Leonard out of bed and off to the school he ran.
Leonard Stanhope wanted to be all kinds of things when he was young. A marine biologist, except he didn’t like water. A civil engineer, except concrete gave him a rash. An IT programmer, except prolonged VDU use gave him migraines. A teacher, except he didn’t like kids.
Of all the options, Leonard thought teaching would probably be the one with the obstacles easiest overcome. He was sure that, in time, he would come to love sticky hands, grubby knees and faces with little patches of green on them. Instead, each hand and knee and bogey reinforced his original dislike, until it was a burgeoning hatred of ‘the young.’
Leonard developed a number of ways of coping with children. He never looked them directly in the eye, for instance. He located a spot midway between a child’s eyebrows and fixed on that instead. Or sometimes, he would refuse to look at a child at all. This was most effective for dealing with children who arrived saying “Miss sent me to see you” as he could talk whilst continuing to write, so making a telling off even worse.
He developed a strict policy of not touching the students, which he insisted every member of staff complied with. Only Nurse was allowed dispensation to touch and only in medical circumstances. Nobody got to hold teacher’s hand in the playground. And Leonard brought nasal cleanliness to the classroom from day one of school. Boxes of tissues were available in every class and teachers could provide wet wipes for particularly tenacious mucus. Any child with a sniffle was asked to stay away from school until they were better.
But still Leonard hated getting up and heading to school, and Muriel battled with him every day. She shook him. She changed the clocks to show 30 minutes later. She played Radio 4 loudly, in his ear. She left his bedroom door open and cooked bacon downstairs. Muriel even let the dog from next door jump on Leonard’s bed and shake himself.
Finally, desperate for a permanent solution, Muriel found something that really worked.
“Leonard, time for school. And I’m not coming up here again or cooking you bacon or even sending a muddy dog in to jump on you. Get up now and get ready for school, or I will telephone your Deputy Head. Janice is it?” asked Muriel.
“Yes, Janice. And what is she going to do? Give me lines or detention ?”
“No, Leonard. I will tell her you have decided that it’s time to make the school a friendlier place. That you’d like to listen to 2 or 3 children reading every single day. That you will take on playground duties permanently and will encourage children to hold your hands. That you are relaxing the rules on sniffles and that a few germs never hurt anyone. Most of all that you will run an annual residential field trip for the oldest children in the school. And this goes for any day I have your nonsense in future.”
“Alright, alright, Mum. I’m up,” said Leonard, as he headed to the bathroom.