Tag Archives: teaching

A Stroud Short Story

ssstorieseerieThis was a first for me, an opportunity to read a story written by me in front of an audience that had actually paid to be there! Admittedly they had paid to hear a selection of delightfully scary short stories, not just mine, at Stroud Short Stories Eerie Evening. But, just in case you were there and want a repeat or if you weren’t there and would like to read the story, it is blogged below.



L204 was not a particularly prepossessing classroom. It was separate from the rest of the IT block, it had been the first wired classroom, an early adopter, but now a smart new block dominated the school, filled with clean and well attached PCs.It was a cold classroom, damp and a little smelly. Paul could not quite define the smell, although he had discovered that the collective smells of Lynx and female hairspray, did not quite cover that nagging hint of decay in L204. He opened cupboards looking for the source of the odd odour. It emanated, he thought, from one particular terminal, the one next to the printer, someone had scratched “Mr Evan is a wanker” into the plastic desktop, now more had been added. The original had been struck through and some wag had written “See me Peters”. Paul chuckled. Mr Evan had been a bit of a tartar. Paul knew little of him, except his tragic end and his penchant for a tidy classroom.

* * *

‘Peters? Oh Peters is dead, hit and run, and good riddance to bad rubbish, I’d have run him over myself given half a chance! After what he did!’ Mr Roberts, doodled on his iPad as they suffered a fruitless training day. Paul had spent some of the day trying to exorcise the smell and remove the ever increasing repetition of the name Peters from various desktops, keyboards, chairs and, for some reason, the floor under his desk.

‘What did he do?’

‘Peters? Nasty little git, he made accusations, did it at parents evening. Started sobbing at the table, in front of everyone, said Evan had fiddled with him during detention. Evan always came in for it from the kids, he was not that great in the classroom

‘And did he?’

‘Did he what…. Oh that God no, he made the mistake of detaining Peters on his own that day, but we have cameras, precisely for that reason, nothing went on, looked like Peters was asleep for most of it. Father believed him though, clambered over the desk that evening and thumped Evan, knocked a tooth out! I s’pose that’s why the poor sod hung himself in his shed. All nice and tidy. He always was tidy, left a note so everyone was clear.’

‘What did it say?’

‘It just said “Don’t teach” can’t argue there – at least in his case.”

* * *

‘Pozlaski, Peters ….. Peters?’ he had a received a reply for every name except Peters, ‘Peters?’

‘He’s not here’ someone said.

The penny dropped for Paul ‘Oh shit!’ he thought he had muttered it, but the class heard and a collective ‘oh’ growled out from them accompanied by banging on desks. ‘All right, enough!’ to his satisfaction they stopped immediately. ‘Still got it’ he thought.

* * *


Subject: Unmarked Register

There are several missing marks on your register for the week beginning 06.12. Please amend. 

A machine bred reproach, typical! Paul phoned again. ‘Lloyd I am forwarding the email that is telling me I have not done my register for Peters, please can you remove his name.’

‘Well I am looking at the register now and I can’t see it.’

* * *

‘Are you gay sir?’

‘What’s it to you?’

‘Well you might be bit weird sir, like Mr Evan.’ The conversation was designed to distract from the task of entering data into Excel. Paul had some sympathy, it wasn’t quite the IT syllabus he had hoped to teach. ‘Yes I am normal and I am gay’. Silence. ‘As for Mr Evan, he was not weird either, he was maligned, viciously maligned and what happened was tragic.’

‘It’s on Facebook’ someone ventured.

‘What is?’

‘That you’re gay, it’s on all our walls.’

‘Well we’d better find out who put it there, my private life is private, not for Facebook.’

‘You did sir.’


‘It says you did sir, there’s a picture of you look!’ Again, there was sniggering as other pupils produced their phones and held up the picture, a very private picture of himself and Andrew, not pornographic, just a self taken phone picture of them in bed, happy, a private picture. He was very rigorous with his privacy settings, this was not a profile picture.


Me reading my story!

* * *

‘Snail mail, Mr Bennett, snail mail, you should try it some time.’ The Head commented after he apologised for the picture and gave up trying to explain how it might have happened.

* * *

He liked the Year 7s they were both easy to scare and easy to please. ‘Settle down, settle down, remember the rules of this room, no one switches on until we are seated and tidied. Bags under the table, phones off and in bags, thank you Georgia, now please! Thank you. Everybody ready? Good, okay start up, but don’t open anything until I say, turn and face the smartboard when you’re ready.’

He was not prepared for, the screaming, the tears, or the terrible, terrible image. On every screen around the room, on the smartboard above, was the grizzled, hanging form of the half decayed Mr Evan, a slideshow of gore for 7E. He panicked. He didn’t know what to do, he forgot how to switch anything off, he was transfixed by the images, appalled and fascinated, unable to move until Sophie Linnet fainted.

* * *

‘The machines are not networked, the internet is switched off, the only way, that could have happened is if someone got in and went round every computer and applied that screensaver.’

‘Or you did it,’ site management was defensive.

‘Well we can review the tapes’ suggested the Head.

‘No we can’t, camera’s broke. I just checked.’

‘Oh you are kidding!’ Paul was exasperated. ‘Doesn’t that tell you anything?’

‘It is suspicious, I agree but you are in the frame Paul, if not in my mind then, in the class of Year 7 and their parents.’

* * *

The smell was oppressive. It covered him as he set up the camera, connected the router, tested it, switched it on, left the classroom spic and span, locked up, took the key and went home to watch telly.

Nothing happened. He poured another glass of wine. He sat down, tore off a piece of pizza and drank some more. The lights went on. ‘Shit I knew it! I bloody knew it! Someone on a campaign, a relative, some kid, some friend of Peters…or the Head?’  He dismissed the idea.. the wine. ’Where are you though? The lights are on but nobody’s home.’ The camera scoured the room but it didn’t cover everywhere. He crept closer looking for hints of movement: papers moving; lights on the computers; screens coming on. He got right up close to the screen, investigating each inch.

Suddenly 42 inches high in his face was a face! Angry! He screamed and leapt back, spilling his drink, scattering his pizza. He looked again, nothing there. ‘Oh that’s just a joke! That’s just one of those stupid internet scarers, oh we can do better than that surely.’ He looked again, this time the figure was evident in the classroom, an adult, not a student, someone wearing a suit. He was switching on the computer, the one by the printer, the one near the smell. He grabbed his coat, the car keys and, unwisely, took one more swig of wine. He raged as he drove. He crashed open the door, the alarm screamed, secrecy and stealth seemed irrelevant, the idiot knew he was watching, surely he would either wait for a confrontation or scarper. He reached the classroom, the lights were off again. He struggled with the keys and as he did so, a slight sense of uneasy recognition entered his soul, that face, the face on the screen, wasn’t that….?. The key turned in the door he hesitated. Was this wise? Probably not. He switched on the lights. Nothing. No one. ‘Bugger!’ The classroom was as it always was, cold, smelly, normal. Never mind, he had the evidence, evidence on the computer. He felt cold and suddenly stupid, he had been duped, he turned to leave but the computer by the printer kicked into life. A remote switch on?. The screen lit up and tempted him closer, it was typing, repeating text. The printer whirred into action, it made him jump. The words grew bigger on the screen, animated like a tag cloud, two words, two words he knew. He peered closer, the words danced, demanding, the printer started to print. That face again! Sudden, filling the screen, angry malevolent as never before. This had gone too far, it wasn’t just a bad joke, it was some form of stalker, a stalker who looked like the decayed vision of… Whatever, time to end it,  time to switch off the computer and report it all to the police.

He reached out to the PC to shut it down…it was live .. it shunted him full of 240 volts, he was gripped by it, contorted into a helpless scream. The printer printed. The paper spat out and floated to the body, still contorted, still twitching

…..and on the paper

… in capitals




Copyright © All rights reserved by Judith Gunn 2015

Breaking Mad


This weekend as is the time of year I went to a party,  mince pies , mulled wine and good company. I met with friends and came across an older acquaintance who I had not seen for some time. The wine flowed, the mince pies mulled and I made the mistake of asking my old acquaintance what it was she did now. ‘Oh” she said, in all innocence. ‘ I teach a PGCE course, I teach young people how to be teachers.’ I’m afraid to say, that somewhat to my own surprise, I greeted her with incandescent rage!  How could she tempt innocent young people into a career so devoid of reward or prospects, a career to span decades of their life at the mercy of political criticism for the whole their working life? I reiterated my dearly held view that under no circumstances do I want my children to enter teaching.

‘Why?’ said my new friend, not without understanding. The answer was not unexpected.


Setting aside government (temporarily) it seems that there is an increasing lack of respect for teachers as individuals and professionals,whether this is just a reflection of my age and gender, I don’t know, but increasingly teachers are used as timetable fillers, increasingly non-contact time, remission for skills development or other contributions is being destroyed, such that some colleagues who are part time are paid only for the time they spend in the classroom, not for their preparation or marking, all that is done in their own time. Is this the ‘extra mile’ that Sir Michael Wilshaw was so keen to impose on teachers, if it is, it is a guise for exploitation and protests to managers are met with the response that if you fail to produce individualised lesson plans (one for every student) if you don’t set and mark that homework, if you don’t improve your results and if you don’t do it in the time that they consider appropriate you are not only a failure, but you are letting down the institution, you may find yourself responsible for the failure of the institution at Ofsted.


In this now non existent, non contact time, teachers now must not only plan, prepare, make resources and mark, they must also break down the data, make Excel documents on results, find funding codes, get data on gender, trends, find out what students do when they leave the institution. Apparently, now Ofsted requires secondary schools to have data not just on where school leavers go when they leave – university or a job, but which student took what subject at university and if they did no take your subject why not? Not only that where do they go after they have graduated from university, do they pursue your subject as a career? This is data-mining worthy of GCHQ and big institutions have information serivces who are supposed to provide this data, but increasingly they regard teachers as having nothing better to do than find and assess data and if they don’t, if they are not familiar with every nuance of their data and the institution’s data then Ofsted will know. FAIL!

breakingbadOne of the reasons that I think that the character of Walter White of the hit US series Breaking Bad, has become so iconic in the US and then by stealth here, is that he gives the lie to that old adage ‘Those who can’t do teach’. Because hell! Walter White can do! He knows his subject, he knows his subject so well he can cook crystal meth with a purity that dominates the world and he can back that up with a bad guy strategy worthy of Keyser Sose. He can cook the best of the best and be the best of the worst and why does he do it? At one point in the series he just says ‘I won’ and he won because he could, it was just up until that time he chose not to, so why does he break bad? Because after years of sharing that knowledge to bored, unappreciative, incapable students, after working faithfully, and effectively as a teacher, changing people’s lives, qualifying them for life and work and a good future, better than his, he earns so little money that he can’t even give himself a chance against cancer. While we do have the NHS, our government press, parents and students all think that teachers are bad in the first place, teachers are considered failures both at life and at teaching, – why wouldn’t you break bad?

While teaching might have been Walter White’s career of necessity, millions of people work in public service or in the ranks of the private sector and everyone of them is treated as if “they should do better” and yet they do their best and without them society would collapse, just ask anyone who lives in a society with no education, buses, rubbish collection, health care, firemen even good bureaucracy, ask them how well they manage without public servants how easy is it to go shopping in sniper alley. And yet generations of teachers and public servants don’t win, no wonder so many break mad!

That being said Walter White didn’t give up teaching, Jesse Pinkman was his best student!