So its back to school. I remember it well though its a long time ago for me. Fear, apprehension, enthusiasm, all manner of emotions in equal measure. Teaching in a large comprehensive one of my tasks, so to speak, was to deliver a weekly spiel, sermon, talk, call it what you will to around four hundred pupils, (one fifth of the total pupils) male and female, aged eleven to eighteen. Six of us involved, supposedly equal but some more 'dedicated' than others. Not an easy task at the best of times, particularly excruciating if you had to 'perform' without notice.
Diary September 5th, 1985.
'A new term, new children, a new challenge. Gone are the days when, as a housemaster, I was required to 'entertain' regular assemblies designed, hopefully to stimulate pupils into actions often contrary to their natural instincts. Strangely enough, though one seldom enjoys standing in front of several hundred people and pontificating, I enjoyed searching for topics, material suitable for so 'moral' an occupation. Over a three year period I must have dispatched dozens of 'semi-sermons'. How many are remembered by myself, now that time has passed, never mind by those unfortunates who had to endure my attempts at wit and wisdom week after week?
I once used ancient Rusty, our faithful old dog as the subject of a talk on loyalty. I jokingly suggested I took Rusty for walks on dry evenings but my wife had the job when it rained. Years afterwards pupils now grown up would remind me of this 'fact' though non remembered the purpose of the talk!
Few pupils believed that I worked with a man who wore glasses, a deaf aid and had an artificial leg, or that another colleague in the factory had an artificial hand, both true facts. Is it too much to hope they remembered the saying 'I had no shoes and I complained. Then I met a man with no feet' that accompanied this particular 'lecture'. A noble sentiment but unlikely to be permanently instilled in the minds of my past, usually half-attentive audiences. More likely to be remembered is the story of the one armed man who goes up to the bar in the pub and asks for a drink. His empty sleeve goes in another man's beer.
'What do you think you're doing' the man angrily exclaims.
'So what, there's no arm in it' the man angrily exclaims.
Many are the children who laughed out loud long after this story was told, for many of our pupils were not the quickest of individuals. (This story was used in the assembly dealing with disabilities.) Gone are the days when assemblies were religious diatribes. Probably the best one aims for is to keep the audience interested (and quiet) by delivering an offering containing some moral overtones, veiled or otherwise. A story comes to mind that amused some if not all.
An orchestra plays to an audience deep in the jungle. (Perhaps to soldiers in the war.) During the interval a little violinist, whilst visiting the toilet takes a wrong turn and finds himself lost. On and on on he walks, deeper and deeper into the jungle. He realises there are eyes peering at him from the dark bushes. The eyes leave the bushes, soon there are animals following him, monkeys, lions, giraffes, even an elephant. The little man stumbles into a clearing, the animals shuffling, skipping and hopping behind. He backs up against a tree, terrified. Suddenly he has an idea. He opens his violin case and brings out his instrument. He begins to play and beautiful music drifts through the jungle. The animals are entranced. They sit in a circle around the violinist. Tears roll down the cheeks of the elephant, whilst the lion purrs with pleasure. Suddenly a tiger leaps from the undergrowth, runs up to the violinist and gobbles him up. The other animals are horrified.
'What did you do that for?' they all tearfully shout.
'Ey, yer what, what did you say' asks the tiger.
( A disability story that some explained to their friends in lesson one after the assembly)
to be continued.