The Summer of Falling in Love - Liz Davies
Maths was definitely Theo’s “thing”, which was a bit of a relief considering he was a maths teacher. He just didn’t think he was all that good at it. Teaching, that is – not maths. He was really good at maths. Or he had been when he was younger. Everyone had told him so, and of course he believed them. His exam results confirmed it, as did his degree from Oxford; Oxford Brookes University, not the Oxford University, although he did tend to just say Oxford if anyone asked because it sounded more impressive. He supposed he might have gone on to do great things in the world of mathematics if he’d been so inclined, but instead he’d ended up doing a Post Graduate Certificate in Education and then was offered the first teaching job he’d had an interview for.
He’d taken it.
Perhaps, in hindsight, it hadn’t been one of his better decisions.
Eight years on and he still loved maths – the purity of it, it’s empirical nature, the absoluteness of it. You knew where you stood with maths. Maths didn’t answer back. Maths didn’t balance precariously on two legs of its chair, flicking spit balls at the person in the seat in front of it. Maths didn’t slouch, or give sullen glares, or lie about its homework. It didn’t call you names, or refuse to behave, or threaten to fetch its rowdy, rather nasty father in to “sort you out”. It didn’t take drugs or turn up for your lesson drunk, and neither did it throw a chair across the room and storm out of your class in a fit of unwarranted and unpredictable teenage anger.
Yes, maths was good. Teaching? Meh, not so much.
‘You look as though you’ve just had 10.3,’ Vicky said when he staggered into the staff room and heaped three spoonfuls of coffee into his mug, followed by an equivalent amount of sugar, and he didn’t usually take more than one. Today, though, he needed the extra energy boost.
‘How can you tell?’ he asked.
‘Dazed expression, trembling hands, the urge to end it all written on your face...?’ Vicky gave him a sympathetic smile.
Yeah, that just about summed it up. Someone, he forgot who, had once told him that children were the most innocent creatures on the planet. They obviously hadn’t met 10.3.
Thirty-one mixed gender fourteen and fifteen-year-olds (thirty-two if you counted Ronnie Elder, who was supposed to be in Theo’s class but whom he hardly ever set eyes on), some of them from fairly deprived backgrounds, many of them with some kind of special educational need, and all of them with attitude and a sense of entitlement, were a force to be reckoned with. 10.3 was also the class which received the most amount of attention and resources for the least gain, in his opinion.
The top set, 10.1, could be challenging at times, and the bottom set, 10.5, had its own problems, but 10.3, stuck perfectly in between the most able and the least able classes, was an absolute nightmare.
Every teacher hated them.
It might be wrong and it might go against the grain, but if they were honest every member of staff would say the same. If they were allowed to say it, which they weren’t – they could possibly face a disciplinary panel for even thinking it. It wasn’t politically correct to admit to disliking one child, let alone a whole classful of them. But the haggard expressions and the defeat lurking in the depths of bloodshot eyes in every staff member after trying to teach them, told its own story.
Theo wrapped his hands around his