At the chalkface: Tim and Moll

Written by: Ian Whitwham | Published:

They’re not quite Romeo and Juliet, more a meeting of like minds, sort of de-schooling sweethearts, extra-curricular chums, partners in crime

Timothy Winters. Tiny Tim? Remember him? Lives in the parish of Ladbroke Grove. Diminutive, introvert, a wit and fabulist? Well, he’s now in the 9th year. It’s time for his bi-annual report. Is he on message? I’m afraid not. Is the little fellow meeting his targets? Not a lot. He’s on nodding terms at best. How are his Learning Outcomes? Negligible.

Apart from English with Ms Juppe and Art with Ms Caravaggio, he’s making the opposite of progress.

He still lurches dizzily from subject to subject like a pinball in a maze. He’s still mostly in the lower streams. The longeurs are longer, the tedium stronger – and the detentions ever more recurrent. His teachers keep conking out and leaving. He still pines for the divine Madame De Beauvoir, his former French teacher, who fled alas, unhinged, back to Paris.

And Mrs Dragon has just labelled him as officially suffering from ADHD. He’s not, he’s bored senseless. His only escape is to draw superb, intricate cartoons. He finds many things absurd. Then he gets detention for convulsive giggling.

Detention has been an absolute godsend. He’s fallen in love with Molly in 9th year. She also gets lots of detentions for larking about. Moll lives in the parish of Shepherds Bush and is also bored to distraction by the syllabus. She’s also an introvert and shy and gets put criminally in the low streams.

They’re not quite Romeo and Juliet, more a meeting of like minds, sort of de-schooling sweethearts, extra-curricular chums, partners in crime. Their increasing detentions, especially when Ms Juppe takes them, are becoming rich learning experiences. Chess is the connection. They play chess while Ms Jupe snoozes.

Both are quite brilliant. They like the cerebral silence. So much for the ADHD theories. And they’ve also started to write graphic novels. Moll does the storylines and Tim the illustrations. It’s genius. Ms Jupe is so impressed that she’s going to run off a limited edition for the 9th year. It might be a bit subversive but so what? They’ll all three go bonkers otherwise.

After detentions the dynamic duo catch a 52 bus to Ladbroke Grove Library – it’s so far escaped closure – and continue work on the magazine. It’s obvious to anyone but management that Tim and Moll are highly intelligent and imaginative pupils for whom most of the curriculum is meaningless. These days they deliberately get put in detention. It’s not difficult. It’s the best lesson of the week. Here they make fantastic progress. It’s the only place they can get any real work done. It’s a reason to be cheerful and a reason to despair.

  • Ian Whitwham is a former inner city London teacher.


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