At the chalkface: Cardiopulmonary resuscitation

Written by: Ian Whitwham | Published:

Couldn’t this also be a way dealing with the current retention and recruitment crisis, of keeping us vertical and not horizontal in the classroom?

The lesson is cruising along on the cusp of Ofsted “unsatis”, after 45 years at this lark, it’s all I can manage. Stress is high. Blood pressure is through the roof. I seem to be reading Of Mice and Men for the trillionth time. I don’t need the book anymore, I know it by heart. Suddenly things go dim, crepuscular. I am bereft of breath. I turn pale, then a bit blue. I pass out across a desk. The reading seems to have ceased.

The few pupils following think I’m enacting Lennie’s death. I’m not. I’m enacting my own – for real.

“You alright then sir?”

Nil response.

“Come on sir, just when it was getting good.”

Nil response.

“Shall I read, sir?”

Nil response.

Am I dead? One of my greatest fears has always been conking out on the job. It affects the teaching.

“Do something!” screams Teodora.

She grabs Ronald Crumlin and points to my incipient corpse.

“Leave this to me,” says the hooligan.

He leaps up and tears down a yellow thing off a wall, a defibrillator. He jumps upon me, breaks a few ribs and gives me the kiss of life.

“Wha! heh!” go the class, gobsmacked. They gaze on at their ex-teacher... but wait a minute!

There is breath, faint breath. Mine. There is more. Yes, I seem to be in the land of living. Crumlin has resuscitated me. I can carry on.

A mixed blessing. Ronald goes back to much applause.

I gradually wake up...

It was all a dream, of course. Well, a nightmare, prompted by Damian Hinds “rolling out” another government wheeze – from 2020 pupils must learn how to administer CPR, cardiopulmonary resuscitation. It’s obviously a very good thing. The British Heart Foundation is pleased. I’m not. As with all government wheezes, I smell another rat.

Couldn’t this also be a way dealing with the current retention and recruitment crisis, of keeping us vertical and not horizontal in the classroom?

Of keeping us not dead now that the retirement age is 175? We know stress levels are higher than ever. A recent survey found that two-thirds of teachers are thinking of quitting over bad behaviour. It doesn’t help recruitment. And now we’ll have to be paramedics.

The pastoral burden is heavy enough. We’re already worn out trying to encourage the little mites to just say no to spice, radicalisation, depression, anorexia, bulimia, knives, gangs et al and compensating for all kinds of criminal parental neglect. Now there’s cardiopulmonary resuscitation. We’ll keep conking out only to be relentlessly rescued – and condemned to plod on through

Of Mice and Men for another 30 years. Death where is thy sting?

  • Ian Whitwham is a former inner city London teacher.


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