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If any day of the week helps me to remember why I do this, it’s Friday: one of the main reasons being that it is the end of the week and I skip out of the school gates chanting “weekend weekend” like a 10-year-old. Funny how there’s nothing quite like two days away from the coal-face to lift my mood; except…! especially gifts from students, and if these come around, it is usually on a Friday.

Today was no exception and here’s what went down.

Been teaching an older gentleman: one of the old school too – polite, diffident, gracious, took himself a little too seriously, perhaps, but that doesn’t make him a Bad Person. He has come to the end of his three-week stay, during which time his only quest was to be able to speak faster. He wasn’t terribly concerned with accuracy, or meaning, or even form really, as long as he could spit words out like bullets from a rapid-fire machine gun. No amount of reasoning, exhortation, playing back recordings or exasperated questioning from fellow students and teachers would convince him that is wasn’t the speed of his delivery that was at fault. He KNEW that this was the problem. Being a “needs-focussed” teacher, I eventually tried to compromise by giving him long runs of small words to practise like, “We’d better think things through” or “It’s not up to me” or “We need some ‘get up and go'” – sort of idea. He loves these and practises them like an actor doing his lines. He took a break at the weekends and hied him off to London. He would come back laden with English delicacies and trinkets and all in all seems genuinely delighted with everything.

At coffee break this morning, he sidled up to me, smiling twinklingly and asked me to follow him. We traipsed up the stairs with him clearly in some kind of fluster. There are classrooms and bedrooms upstairs, so as usual, I stopped at the classroom and told him I’d wait. He scuttled off to his bedroom and after some time he came bustling back down the corridor clutching a big rustling Marks and Spencer’s bag. He thrust it at me and said, “For you,” and beetled back down the stairs. Truth be known, unless I know exactly what it is, I prefer to unwrap presents unaccompanied. This gives me time to rearrange my face furniture should the gift have provoked shock, amusement or any kind of emotion that may be interpreted in a negative way by the giver.

I’m glad I was afforded this opportunity on this occasion, because inside the Marks and Spencer bag, nestled in swathes of tissue paper, was ….. a green hat.


5 responses »

  1. A lady never knows when she may need a green hat! Lucky you!

  2. … and these slightly surreal, very human moments make it all worth it somehow. Great story, similar memories.

  3. Just what you’ve always wanted, no doubt. At our place we adorn the teachers’ room with all the souvenir plates, pot sombreros, balalaikas and odds and sods of paper gymcrackery from China, rather than clutter up our houses with them. But will you actually have to wear this in his presence?

    • Oh Steve – I’m afraid, yes, I did wear it. He explained the rationale for his choice. “You are from South Africa – you need to be careful of the sun.” I wore his hat when we all repaired to the garden for the afternoon coffee break. The sun was shining and, well it was Friday…..


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