I spent Saturday night dining with a bunch of doctors. Even the partners of the doctors invited were doctors. The conversation was mostly about other doctors who weren’t fortunate enough to attend the party of doctors and doctors partners.

Thankfully this is an environment I’ve spent may years training for so for the most part I managed to keep up and had a very enjoyable evening. At one point the discussion turned to the topic of teaching (aren’t teachers lucky having so many weeks off?) and discipline (it’s impossible to control kids today!), giving me the opportunity to tell the following story passed to me some years ago by Peter Godber, a fellow architecture student from my time at BSA.

I’d asked him to remind me of it a few weeks ago and since he went to the trouble of writing it out the least I can do is pass it on.

Take note all those who are planning to commence a career in teaching…

From first hand experience I can now vouch for the need for any school-teacher to gain the attention and respect of a new class from the moment of entrance at the very first lesson. There are many varied ways to do this but I don’t think any could be as singular as the first five minutes of my brother’s first English lesson at Tonbridge School when he was fifteen.

Joe and his class were sitting and waiting for their new English teacher, Mr. Crick, for ten minutes after the bell signifying the beginning of the session had sounded. This gave them time to recover their breath for the classroom was situated in Room 15 which occupied the top floor of the School’s main tower (5 stories up). What breath they had recovered soon left them when Mr. Crick strode into the room, making up for with garment any stature that nature may have deprived him in height. Mr. Crick at that time adopted the atire of a 16th Century Polish priest; this consisted of a long black gown topped with a wide-brimmed, and when I say wide-brimmed I mean a good foot of brim, circular black felt hat. In one hand he had a large silver portable Hitachi HiFi and in the other a Sainsbury’s bag.

Without a word of greeting, or even acknowledgement of their presence, to the class Mr. Crick walked the length of the room to his desk where he unloaded himself of his burden. Having plugged in the HiFi and opened the cassette deck he reached into the Sainsbury’s bag and produced a large white fish. Mr. Crick frowned at the fish. I have been unable to ascertain the type of fish, all I know is that it was reasonably large, white and was causing the good school teacher some kind of upset. Anyway Mr. Crick now pressed play on the HiFi and proceeded to jam the fish’s head into the tapedeck. This did not seem to appease Mr. Crick as he began muttering to himself and trying to force the rest of the fish into the HiFi which was making a low but faintly unhealthy sound whilst all the time being covered in more and more fishy matter.

After about a minute of this activity Mr. Crick became frustrated, shouting “Stupid bloody thing, never works!!” and promptly threw the whole assembly of fish, HiFi and bag out the window. After a couple of seconds there was a crashing sound far below. Mr. Crick now turned to the class, appearing now to be aware of them for the first time and introduced himself formally to the class and took the register. Fortunately no-one was walking through the tower, the bottom of which was an arched thoroughfare crowded with students out of lesson time, when the fishy HiFi crashed to the ground but my brother assures me that Mr. Crick neither checked before or after throwing them. All I do know by way of ending this little tale is that Mr. Crick never raised his voice with the class for the rest of the year, he also never felt the need to punish them and he experienced no classroom management difficulties from any of his charges.

You’d never manage that with an iPod. Peter moved on from architecture and took up a career in teaching a few years ago. As far as I’m aware this has yet to involve torturing any fish with audio devices. Early days yet though.