The magic space


Why get angry anymore? It's not going to get better. Market values have won. We've lost. But we haven't lost the big one. The magic space is safe.

Most teachers seem ludicrously good at their jobs, beyond the call of duty – like Pirlo with that penalty. Most pupils seem ludicrously good at their roles, against often murderous odds. They meet in a classroom for 1,500 hours – a rich, volatile, difficult, complex, intricately subtle, infinitely changing tragi-comedy. A continually astonishing experience. Sorry to go Californian on you, but it’s a magic space. Those who’ve never been in a classroom rarely get it. Worse. They’re much given to pontificating about it. Worse still, they are often politicians, who want to control, change or trash it.

Well, here’s the good news. That space is inviolate. They’re all flogging a dead duck. They can’t reach it with their tsunami of wheezes – with, say, Bonkers Phonetics, a return to O levels and CSEs and the 1950s or banging up paupers in secondary moderns. It’s gone beyond satire. What’s next? Caning or slates or gruel or the stocks or blacking factories or chimney sweeps or chopping off limbs for stealing loaves?

Why get angry anymore? It’s not going to get better. Market values have won. We’ve lost. But we haven’t lost the big one. The space is safe. I’m not, finally, going to judge children by their drear criteria. Yes, I must give them weapons for surviving a world, which doesn’t deserve them. Yes, I must get them good grades, by any means necessary. But I’m not going to put the frighteners on small people with tales of catastrophic futures. I don’t finally care. It was never about exams. It’s always about the perpetual present tense of the classroom. It doesn’t change. It’s ours. We’re a gang and I’m the boss.

There’ll always be Ronald Crumlins and Decibelles and Lilys and Dennis Plums or Dave Manias – whatever their disguise. And I’ll always miss them. Never more than this time of year, when we must say goodbye at assemblies, parties and farewell balls. I lurch into a whoozy, benign sentimentality. What nice, lovely, kind children! What a vile, ugly unkind world! I can even forgive their more appalling antics – hiding in the staffroom flowerpot, pushing Mr Donut in the pond, chasing peacocks round the playground, setting fire to dreadlocks, abseiling from the fourth floor or calling the Ofsted “the old bill” – “It’s not funny or clever – eh, sir?”

There they go. Clots zonked on vodka at the 6th form party. All scrubbed up at the 11th year Ball, having a surreptitious ciggy, writing miss-you-forevers with magic markers on T-shirts. Shall I tell them off? Be their teacher? No more. “Chill, sir!” They’ve left that magic space. One can only shudder. Goodbye...


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