Castor! Pollux! Have you done your prep?
Brassie was just checking that everything had been cleared so
that the family could enjoy the Bank Holiday. She hadn’t noticed any
scholarly activity going on in the boys’ room.
It’s all under control, mater, said Castor.
No worries! Pollux chimed in, not even looking up from his Ipad.
Are you sure?
Yeah, we outsourced it. It should be e-mailed back to us from India by
Randeep in time for Tuesday period 4.
What?! Brassica thought she was going to explode.
Well, explained Castor, Mr Milford-Haven was telling us that he was
snowed under by marking and that he had read about the latest
service where teachers could send their guilt pile abroad and have
scripts marked in a far continent for two quid… I mean pounds.
He had registered his mother’s glare.
I don’t know why you don’t like the idea, Mother Darling, Pollux
chipped in. You send out our ironing, don’t you?
It’s not quite the same thing, their mother pointed out grimly.
Teachers are supposed to gain knowledge of their pupils’
apprehension of their subject from assessing their charges’
Mr Snodbury doesn’t pore over our work, Castor replied. He
told us that he climbs up to the galleried landing over the
vestibule and, if the coast is clear, he scatters our exam scripts
over the banisters. He says that he has an instinctive awareness
of who is hot and who is not. He can tell by looking at the writing
if they are any good, or not, without even reading them. So he
picks them off the floor in rank order.
Apparently he has an inner geiger counter that tells him who
should be top. He was born with it and he says that is what
makes him a good teacher, added Pollux.
I don’t believe what I am hearing, Brassie said. It is a pity that
there will be no one in the office on Monday, as I would like to
speak to The Headmaster about this.
Oh, don’t Ma, both boys chorused. Snod is the best teacher in
the school. Everyone knows that.
I wonder if he even had teacher training, pondered their mother.
He said it was a waste of time, Pollux volunteered.
Oh yeah, agreed Castor. In that History lesson he said teachers,
like soldiers, only learned in the field. He told us that the difference
between theory and practice was as great as learning to stick a
bayonet in a sandbag in a training camp in Kent and actually going
over the top in World War One. That’s why some people call
teaching ‘classroom warfare’, he said.
I think that was a totally inappropriate thing to say to young
impressionable people, Brassie said, tight-lipped. I’ll deal with
this next week. Now, what was this prep that you sent off?
Maths, answered the twins. It’s not exactly difficult to grade.
It was all multiple choice.
I suppose the staff are relying on your honesty in feeding back
Yeah. Chillax, Mumsie.
Brassie gave Castor another severe look.
Anyway, laughed Pollux. Mr Milford-Haven told us that practically
everything is subjective. Even Gandhi just managed 64% in Kathiawar
School Exams and only achieved a ‘fair’ in Arithmetic.
And this is the standard of the people who will be marking my sons’
work! thought Brassie bitterly.
So what happens if you challenge Mr Snodbury’s scores? she persisted.
You don’t, clarified Castor. The last boy who questioned Snod’s addition
had a mark subtracted for impertinence, so nobody says anything now. We
don’t mind. It all comes out in the wash. That’s what he always says.
I see, said Brassie. She would have to discuss this with their father.
Clearly the only marking that was being done in that school was the
defining of masters’ territory. The way they still sat at those high desks
as if they were inviolate inside some Caucasian Chalk Circle of their own
making made her blood boil. She could only hope that Snod, The Senior
Master, would trip up as he stepped down from his raised dais to go to the
Staffroom at break- like that Millipede, as the boys called him. He needed
taking down a peg or two.
She felt like encouraging her boys in non-co-operation, something
that funny little man in the loincloth had advocated, she seemed to
remember. Ben Kingsley, yes. She’d seen the film with Cosmo when
they were courting. Passive resistance. It would be interesting to see
how Senior Management would handle that mode of soft insurrection.
It might bring the institution into the twenty first century. Goodness
knows how Ofsted had ever rated them ‘Outstanding!’ Maybe the
Inspectors just made everything up so they could go home early at
the end of a difficult week, eating Hobnobs in various base rooms and
frightening the life out of those who still had any remnants of vivacity
and enthusiasm for their subject. Fools! Did they not know that they
were being assessed on whether the Hobnobs were the chocolate variety
and whether the coating was milk or plain, according to the predilection of
the individual interrogator, eh, Inspector?
She was surprised at her strength of feeling!
It would serve the staff right if they encountered a bit of opposition if
they were contemplating posting off her boys’ precious outpourings to
a country where the Jain concept of ‘syadvad ‘ was rife. All views of truth
are partial. Ha! What she paid the school fees for was confirmation of
And she could hardly chide her little darlings if they were merely
anticipating and enacting the vile policy of those who were supposed
to be their guardians and mentors.