5 things you don’t know No 4

I really must finish this.  So here goes with No.4 

I was a teacher once.  Nominally, if not much more.  It was my year off (gap years hadn’t been invented at that stage) and I spent it teaching Maths, English and Geography to the 1st & 2nd years in a high school in Kingston, Jamaica.  There were two main outcomes of the experience.  The first was that I probably set the education of those girls back by up to a year, the second that it put me off classroom teaching for life.  I think my main qualification for the job was that I had done SMP maths (remember that?) at O level and this was the programme the school was starting to teach.  A more important qualification may well have been that my mother knew Sister Christine, the Headmistress.  I tackled the job with the supreme confidence of the uninformed and I think managed to stay one chapter ahead most of the year.

I have a number of vivid memories of that year.  One was the floor of my upstairs classroom collapsing at the back of the room so we cordoned that bit off with a bit of tape and moved all the desks forward.  I think there were over 40 girls in that class and we had to climb over desks to get to the back of the room after that.  The girls ran rings round me and the Science teacher in the classroom next door used to come in at regular intervals to quieten them down.  The first years were a lot easier to manage, partly as most of them were still smaller than me, but I do remember an argument developing in one poetry class about whether ‘hair’ and ‘here’ rhymed.  Straight from England, of course they didn’t rhyme.  But try saying them in a Jamaican accent…  I didn’t really appreciate this until sometime later.  There was a girl called Judith who sat right at the front of one of my maths classes and really struggled with numbers and it was a little while before it dawned on me that she was severely dyslexic.  She used to ask questions like “I don’t understand where you get that 52 from” and I would look at the board and there would be no 52 in sight.  But there would be 25 or 2b.  She was one of the good things about that time as, once I realised the problem, I was able to help her and when I left she wrote me a lovely note saying “Thank you for helping me to understand maths”.   Then there was the day we found a lizard in the staffroom and every Jamaican in the vicinity headed for the hills and wouldn’t return until the room was declared a lizard-free zone. 

facelina-small.jpgThere are a lot more memories lurking just below the surface but I think the main outcome of my year was joining the local diving club and learning to dive.  I had wanted to learn for some time but my parents wouldn’t let me until I could pay for myself.  So my teacher’s salary went on this and I spent almost every weekend on a beach or coral reef somewhere around the island.  This had a major impact on my subseqent career and that is No 5.  Tomorrow, maybe.


7 thoughts on “5 things you don’t know No 4

  1. What fun this ‘5 things’ has turned out (for me anyway). Your life stories are wonderful. Are jamaicans spooked by lizards? Seems like people everywhere find some ‘beastie’ scary. So far cockroaches are my ‘pet’ hate.

    Looking forward to 5!


  2. I should have told the story of squishing a large cockroach under a bit of furniture before going to bed one night in Egypt. We’d decided, rather than risk mosquitos coming in, to clear it up in the morning. We woke to a half-dismantled cockroach and a long line of ants carrying away the bits…

  3. Better bits of cockroach than bits of you. Reminds me of a major hunt for a scorpion one of us spotted in a guest house in Bali. It eventually turned up in the lining of Jane’s suitcase. Be afraid…!

  4. I hate cockroaches too. I think it’s something to do with living in the tropics and that crunchy scuttling noise when you turn on the kitchen light in the night. There was a story about Jamaicans and lizards which I have forgotten but I think was to do with spirits (of the evil kind, not the alcoholic ones). The most intelligent, well-educated Jamaicans had a completely irrational fear of little harmless lizards.

  5. Yes, that’s exactly the image I had in my mind of the cockroaches- diving for cover when the light goes on.

    Have you read Nissim Ezekiel’s poem ‘Night of the Scorpion’? It’s about the poet’s mother being bitten by a scorpion.

    I read it to a class recently. They kept asking why the woman wasn’t taken to hospital… A good opportunity to talk about the developing world!

  6. I’ve just read it, after watching ‘Helen House’ on television – I think the last 3 lines say it all:-

    My mother only said
    Thank God the scorpion picked on me
    And spared my children.

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