The summer holidays were over and it was time to go back to school and start the second year of juniors.
All was well in my world but I never realised how bad this year is going to get for many reasons.
The many reasons were failings from the education system and even back then without the constant cutbacks, it was still a broken system with many children being failed.
Education has evolved a lot since then and other things are considered when teaching children and adults.
For example, some people are visual learners and they absorb information from watching a video on YouTube or taking pictures of things.
This is the category I fall into and throughout my degree, I took pictures of everything and taught myself so much through YouTube.
I could write about three episodes of this blog on learning styles alone but the link below will explain in a lot more detail how people absorb and retain information.
However back when I went to school the teacher stood in front of the class and wrote on the board and if you didn’t understand or had a condition such as dyslexia you were made to feel stupid for not understanding.
Don’t get me wrong there are some amazing teachers who make a difference in people’s lives for example my English teacher in college Sian Hartley. She showed me that my dyslexia was not an issue and that I was capable of great things.
As I had such negative experiences in school for many years I had wanted to go back and get qualifications for years but my fears and resentments of the old system had held me back.
I was right to have these resentments and I was wronged by the system but in hindsight, many of these teachers never gave me a second thought while condemning me in the classroom. Some of these even did it with a big smile on their face.
It’s safe to say as well a lot of these teachers who were out and out bullies and nasty cunts to kids were failed people.
They couldn’t make it in the real world and back then they were not monitored or assessed nearly as much in the educational system.
A lot has changed in this field but a lot has stayed the same. My pal Chris Ryan (not the author) told me there has been a lot of improvements but unfortunately, it still attracted the wrong people.
He told me a story of a woman who he works with who became a teacher purely because she supports Liverpool football club.
When he asked her how does that have any relevance to her job choice she told him well I want a job with lots of holidays that finishes early enough so I can go to the match.
Then when asked she admitted that she really doesn’t care about the kids it was all to suit her schedule.
As messed up as that sounds I don’t doubt it for a second. Since myself becoming a teacher and working in Vietnam some of the people I’ve seen who have had more degrees than a compass claiming to be teachers were questionable at best.
In a similar fashion though I’ve also come across some amazing teachers here however they are few and far between.
Sian Hartley retired a few years ago from the college where we met and is loving life spending time with her grandchildren.
When she left a few years ago she spoke to me about a lot of the problems she faced which should not be problems.
Every day her hands would be tied until she said enough is enough and walked away.
We still speak a little on Facebook and I’m glad she has not taken that bad energy back into the real world.
It’s unfortunate as the world needs more teachers like her. Most of the good ones go on to better things and you can’t blame them.
I would find out as would many students is everyone in Woolton CP school would have a bad year.
There were 4 years of juniors so one of those years would be bad for you.
For us, our bad year was the second year. This was because there was a shortage of teachers.
The school was juggling its many students and as a result of this as people were not being replaced then that’s why at some point everyone would have a horrible teaching year.
Nothing was ever done about this as we were much better off than many schools and in some of the poorer areas, the problem was ten times worse.
It turns out when you are in an area full of white middle-class people then you get a lot more resources than the more in need areas.
This is a lot to do with different councils and how they spend their money but more really should be done to fix this.
It was strange for me to come from Toxteth which had a lot of poverty, unemployment, and crime to Aigburth which still had more of the same but a lot more people who were blue-collar workers and many had their own businesses to Woolton were many of the parents were absolutely minted.
Not all the kids were rich but it was a far cry from what I was used to and when I went to people’s houses and saw how they lived I was blown away.
A lot of my friends lived around Hunts Cross Avenue and surrounding areas and even back then it was a nice place to live.
If you were to buy a house in that area now you won’t get much change from five hundred grand.
To them, it was all normal as they didn’t know any other way of life but to me was a different world.
It was also a real wake-up call as if I had stayed in Toxteth I wouldn’t know normal people lived like this and would have thought that my path and my environment was what everyone went through.
It was a huge struggle for my mum to compete with this but she somehow managed it.
My new friends would all be dressed from head to toe in the best clothing and Christmas must have been a nightmare for mum.
She wasn’t stupid nor was she blind and she went above and beyond to make sure I had what I needed.
Obviously, some years were better than others but I never went without anything.
I also feel I had much more than these other kids as for the most part they didn’t know how the real world worked.
They could go on and learn later on in life but their programming came from a secure middle-class platform that really does not show you the reality of poverty and inner-city life.
Now with the internet, it’s much easier to get this information but back then there was a lot more ignorance of real-world problems and a lot of them have not ventured far from where they have grown up.
I’m convinced that my moving when I was younger and going into the Army and travelling really broadened my horizons.
I’m still on good terms with everyone I went to school with but many of them never left that group of friends and to me that’s heartbreaking.
One of the lads had a birthday last year and put a picture up on Facebook of them all together in a Chinese restaurant in Woolton Village.
There were 11 people in the photo and I knew 10 of them. None of them had ventured out of their comfort zone.
Since leaving school I’ve got multiple groups of friends from all over the place.
Granted I don’t see them as much as I would like but I know I can call on them if needed and they would be there in a heartbeat.
Now, that’s a much stronger bond than drinking in Woolton together and buying cocaine at the weekend.
One of my closest mates Matt Edwell I met by accident in a bar in Thailand and he and I became very close. He’s back in London and I’m in Vietnam but we still speak to each other a lot.
If I hadn’t had the experiences I have had and stayed in the same bubble the chances are I would have never been in Thailand or if I was I would never have spoken to him.
I’m a firm believer of everything happens for a reason.
One thing I did learn when you have friends who are all loaded is you learn to shop around. Many of my friends were being bought clothes from a department store called Wade Smith.
This was a great shop in its day but it was way overpriced and you could get all of the exact same stuff in St Johns Market about 25 percent cheaper.
Not only that you could always do a deal with them the Pakistanis and Indians are used to this and it would make the trip all the more fun.
To this day ill try and get the best price for everything and my mum taught me this well.
Growing up with no money you do have to be very creative but I never got any shit for my clothes and always looked good.
Many other kids were not so fortunate and kids could be cruel bastards at the best of times.
Wade smith closed down a few years later and apparently in its last year was operating at a huge loss.
There was way too many staff who for the most part did fuck all and I think the owner probably came in one day a month as he just got complacent to counting his money.
I remember going in there on leave from the army in 1997 and I was stood at the checkout with 1000 pounds worth of clothes.
Believe me when I say 1000 pounds got you a lot more clothes than it does now even at Wade Smith.
The girl was about to ring it in and I was about to pay cash.
I asked her to put the hangers in a separate bag and she refused and told me that was impossible.
I end up having an argument with her not shouting but still an argument because I needed the hangers and was about to spend a fortune there.
She wouldn’t budge so on principle I told her thanks anyway and started to walk out.
It was the world’s slowest exit and I thought she would call me back.
She didn’t and was quite OK with me leaving empty-handed.
About a year later then went bankrupt. It’s because of idiots like this why people do most of their shopping online.
Many times I’ve gone to town with a pocket full of money and some dickhead is stood there shrugging his shoulders saying sorry lad I can’t help you come back next Wednesday.
I’ve never been a fan of waiting for stuff and usually would find something else in a different shop sometimes even on the same street.
So anyway back to school as we went a little off-topic and the plan from the school was that Miss Brookfield was going to be our teacher.
She was very strict but she wasn’t a bad person and did care about us kids which is half the battle.
Miss Brookfield must have weighed about 80 pounds she looked like she was starving.
She used to eat about ten KitKat bars a day and she would match this would huge mugs of coffee which made the classroom stink.
After a week she was assigned to another class as she was a regular teacher out of Woolton and we were then about to get the first of many supply teachers.
For those who don’t know about supply teachers, this is normally how the system works.
If your a brand new teacher who is new to the game you can likely do this for a little while until you get a contract with a school.
Depending on how good or bad you are this will tell you how long you will be a supply teacher but then some are just lucky and get a job quickly.
The others who make up this profession are usually ex-teachers who are on their way out so will be working as cover either part-time or full time but on a temporary basis.
The rest are usually terrible teachers who say they like the freedom but deep down know they couldn’t cope with a real schedule and regular pupils.
They still have to abide by the rules and do the job to an extent but it’s much harder to get caught out. being a pretender.
Especially back in the 80s when there were no real systems in place to monitor how good or bad a teacher was.
So Miss Jacob was huge and about 4 feet tall and looked a lot like the penguin from Batman well if he wore a green dress which she always seemed to have on no matter what.
She never smelt bad but she never changed her clothes and in hindsight, she probably had a wardrobe with 30 green dresses inside.
She made it clear on day 1 that she didn’t want to know any of us and shown us all just how lazy she really was.
She would give us work to copy out of a book to start with and after a week the lessons became more advanced.
We were following the curriculum but we were getting about 5 minutes of explanation and being told to get on with it.
This is when I first started having difficulties with my dyslexia and this added to this horrible teacher was a huge stress every day and she really didn’t hide her lack of interest in any of us.
You would put your hand up and she would flat out ignore you while she was sat at the front either writing in her diary or doing crossword puzzles.
After 10 minutes of having my hand up, I approached her desk, and right away without even looking up from her diary she told me to sit down.
At the end of each lesson, she would either push past us all at the bell so she could go and make toast in the classroom or shout at us because we were second years and we should know what we were doing and we shouldn’t have to ask any questions.
She would rarely even look at our books so she didn’t see that people were falling behind and if she did she would just give the work a big tick.
This went on and progressively got worse with just a handful of people doing their work and everyone else just writing anything down.
We would all be whispering to each other and with us being kids within about 5 minutes we would be quite loud and that’s when we really saw her passion.
She would stand at the front of the class and shout at everyone for daring to disturb her crossword puzzles and riveting diary entries.
To be fair to the girl she did change it up a bit and started to bring in magazines to read as she must have been so bored sat there pretending to teach.
I’m not sure what magazines they were but it would be along the lines of green dress weekly, what snooker table, green tent monthly, adventures for the elderly.
Also, it should be noted when I say classroom it wasn’t actually a classroom as the school was short of classes with too many students so for the second year we had to spend a few months being taught out of a Portakabin.
These were freezing in the winter and having to wear short pants, as well as the rest of this nonsense school, had quickly lost its appeal.
I remember one day being totally baffled by the work and once again being told to sit down when I tried to approach the table
I booted an empty chair which went flying across the room giving Miss Jacob a fright.
I was sent to the headmaster’s office and I was terrified.
The headmaster was a welsh guy called Mr. Owen who turned out to be a horrible bully to many kids myself included.
Luckily I wasn’t at the stage where he hated me yet and I was summoned inside.
Normally he would start shouting but today it was different.
I think Mr. Owen knew our teacher was a waste of oxygen so after I said sorry I went back to class after a very mild telling-off.
Miss Jacob sat smiling at me all happy as she thought I had got into trouble.
I was fuming with her as she had gone out of her way to fuck me over and even as a kid I could see this.
I was sat there pissed off talking to Peter Rowe and he felt the same as she had screamed at him earlier as he asked to go to the toilet.
I said to him we need to find a way to get her back and he agreed so we came up with an amazing plan.
Well, to be honest, it wasn’t really amazing but for our age group, it felt pretty solid. We had the bright idea we would put a drawing pin on her chair and not tell anyone about it.
If nobody knew about it apart from us then we could not get caught so the bell went for playtime as expected Miss Jacob bomb bust out of the class as she couldn’t wait a minute longer for her 6 slices of toast.
Peter gave me the nod and I went over to her desk and stuck the pin on her chair.
We came back from break and sat down and then Miss Jacob took her seat and we waited…
Any second now she would scream the place down.
Nothing, not a thing, I nodded at peter and he raced up to the front with his exercise book by the way he was stuck but he was looking for the pin to see if it dropped on the floor.
Sit down she said and he came and sat next to me I looked at him and he whispered I cant see it.
I’m racking my brains thing where the fuck is it and then we had a gift from God as everyone started talking at the same time and Miss Jacob jumped up like clockwork she ran to the front of the class and started shouting at everyone but without realising her bum was at eye level with me and Peter and we both spotted it at the same time.
The green dress and the drawing pin were stuck in her bum cheek. She was so fat she hadn’t noticed it even a few minutes later.
Peter and I broke down laughing as we couldn’t believe that she had not felt this and it was still stuck in her arse.
All of her rages turned to us and she was the colour of beetroot and still not noticed the pin.
The more she shouted the more we couldn’t control the laughing and before her head exploded she sent us both to Mr. Owen.
This time he wasn’t in the best mood especially seeing me twice in 2 days and he went ballistic on us both.
As bollockings go it was definitely an 8/10 and we left his office in silence on the way back to class Peter looked at me and smiled and we were both laughing uncontrollably again on the way to class.
Peter put me in my place before going back into class though and to be fair he saved me a lot of trouble.
He pulled me back by my shirt and told me Arlo don’t forget to look really upset when you go back in and he was right so we went in and took our seats but Miss Jacob didn’t have any victorious smiles for us.
To be honest, by the feel of the atmosphere I think the rest of the class was being torn apart the whole time we were in Mr. Owen’s office.
WE left school that day in good spirits and our bollocking had been totally worth it and that huge fit of giggles had given us the morale boost we needed in the shit existence we had in that class.
The next day we came to school and we were presented with 2 gifts.
The first being we had actually been allocated a classroom and the second is Miss Jacob had left.
I think they wanted an excuse to push her out and whatever had happened they had used it and she never even said goodbye to us.
We were so happy and we were introduced to our next supply teacher Mr. Hughes.
Mr. Hughes was not a great teacher but he wasn’t a prick either and he at least cared about the kids.
It was a shame we couldn’t have kept him as school was going to get a hell of a lot worse that year and Miss Jacob was just the beginning.
I was busy living in the moment being thankful that the penguin had gone and more thankful that I was not sat in the Portakabin freezing to death.
Even Miss Brookfields schedule had improved and even though she only taught us for a week she always said hello to us in the yard and managed a smile. It’s nice to be nice and manners cost nothing.