At the chalkface: Some good frontier gibberish

Written by: Pete Henshaw | Published:

I tether my horse in the bike shed, mosey into the fancy foyer, check my holster, check my gun, lower my Stetson, kick in classroom door and stand alone, like Gary Cooper in High Noon

Summer term limps to a close. Are you a wreck? Tending to burn out? Tending to the neurasthenic. Are you sick and tired of being a sensitive wuss in a world of brute thugs, idiot parents and crazed management? Have you got empathy fatigue? Have you had a mental blip that humanity isn’t so wonderful, that maybe Hobbes, Machiavelli or the Beano were on to something? That what you need is a more robust pedagogy. “Some good frontier gibberish,” as the old timer has it in Blazing Saddles.

Well, help might finally be at hand from Trump’s America, from small-town Colorado. A new gun law is in place. Teachers keen on extreme violence can now take a course in shooting people, being an “armed first responder”.

Marvellous – and not before time. I’ve always admired the cowboy myth. It trashes ambiguity. It gets things done. Just imagine...

I tether my horse in the bike shed, mosey into the fancy foyer, check my holster, check my gun, lower my Stetson, kick in classroom door and stand alone, like Gary Cooper in High Noon, before the low stream 10th year, who’ve been giving me too much gyp lately. I give them a thousand-yard stare. I am the Law round these parts. I masticate on tobacco. I say nothing for 10 minutes.

Then I say, “We’re gonna be doing the apostrophe.”

They still don’t get it. They are bored. So what? So am I.

Dangerously bored.

“You don’t need it in real life!” says “Big Ant” Coleman from the back row.

“Yeah. Right, bro!” says the moron Dave Mania. “They is crap”. “Big Ant” puts his feet on the table.

My thin desert eyes are dead under my hat.

“Apostrophes is crap, sir.” He tilts the chair against the wall.

“Like your lessons, sir.”

Tension crackles a cactus rattlesnake.

“You can’t control us.”

I crack my knuckles like walnuts.

“You can’t do it, sir.”

I take out the gun and blow him away.

The silver bullet goes clean through his skull, through the wall, and kills the head in his study.

I twirl the gun in a blur and put it back in the holster.

“Anyone else got anything to say?”

Don’t we all imagine doing this for a nanosecond? Probably not, but at the end of the year we may be glad to leave some of our charges behind – at least for a few weeks.



I’ll be offering some slightly more measured pedagogic strategies next year. In the meantime do have a very peaceful hols.

  • Ian Whitwham is a former inner city London teacher.


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