written and posted by members of Lancashire Dead Good Poets' Society

Tuesday, 7 April 2020

Deja Vu - Old School

We watched the film, ‘To Sir, With Love’ the other night. I recorded it from one of the classic movie channels a few weeks ago. I’d seen it a long time ago and couldn’t remember it properly, but snippets kept coming back to me.

“Do you know what,” I said to my husband who happily goes along with my indulgence in old films – or he suffers in silence – “this is like a modern version of ‘Spare the Rod’. Do you remember?”

I think there was a nod of agreement, but I stayed focussed on Sidney Poitier as his character, teacher Mark Thackeray displayed a smouldering, deep in thought expression. In a role reversal from his part some years earlier in The Blackboard Jungle, he was finding a way to ‘get through’ to his class. Déjà vu Max Bygraves in ‘Spare the Rod’.

Both films are set in London’s East End, depicting deprived areas with hard to reach, hard to teach adolescents. Their teachers are naïve young men, aiming to change the world, and change their careers using teaching as a stepping stone. No spoiler alerts here, I promise. ‘Spare the Rod’ is real and gritty compared to the more light-hearted ‘To Sir, With Love’. Roll out ‘Please, Sir!’ as the same mix successfully became a comedy.
There was nothing funny about having to visit high school when summoned by a teacher needing a chat about one of our teenagers. Sadly, this was a regular occurrence and I felt more dread than déjà vu. I was certain that I would die of embarrassment. I worked in a primary school at the time and I loved it, but felt like I was losing control of my own children. I’m happy to say that both are now lovely, well-behaved, responsible adults with children of their own and I am as proud of them as it’s possible to be. I hope I’m here with words of wisdom for them when my grandchildren reach their teens.

When I started high school at Palatine Secondary School, it was at what became known as ‘the old building’ on Bennett Avenue. A new school was being built on St Anne’s Road which eventually we would move to. I wasn’t happy, I was very miffed, if that’s a real word. I was clever, yet I’d failed my 11+ and couldn’t go to Collegiate Girls’ Grammar. I’m still ashamed. I grew to love Palatine and always felt more at home in the original school rather than the new one. The old school is now part of the Blackpool & Fylde College University Campus. It was certainly déjà vu to return fifty years after becoming a first former. I enrolled in an evening class. I was in one of my classrooms. Very little had changed, it might be the same sash window, the same brass-knobbed door and half-tiled wall, but tables replaced desks, blackboard had gone and the wood flooring, if it was still there, was hidden beneath carpet tiles. The long corridor on the ground floor was now divided by safety glass fire doors, and I couldn’t see through them from one end to the other but I did wander around on my break looking for the familiar. I could almost hear ‘Dear Lord and Father of Mankind’ coming from where the main hall used to be. I sensed a feeling of belonging.

     I borrowed this poem,


Thanks for reading. Stay safe and take care in these worrying times. Pam x


Steve Rowland said...

Very interesting Pam. I remember seeing To Sir, With Love back in the day (I was quite partial to Adrienne Posta at the time!) but I've never watched Spare The Rod, though I shall now make a point of doing so. Fortunately my own daughters were never in trouble at school but I did have to make repeated visits on account of a naughty step-son (whose mother was too embarrassed to go, because she was a head teacher). I'm pleased to read yours turned out all right - they mostly do, it seems. Stay well, S.

Anonymous said...

To Sir, With Love - great movie.

Deke Hughes said...

I hadn't heard of Lang Leav before so I googled. Surprised to find she was born and grew up in a refugee camp after fleeing the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia, went to live in Australia and is now a best-selling novelist and poet. Interesting.

Rochelle said...

I thought my kids were monsters in their teens but they turned out fine in the end - funny to see them stressing now over the behaviour of their own children :)