Wednesday 21 February 2018

Diary of a Schoolteacher: Satanists and long-lost friends: just another parent-teacher meeting

E Grade

The first P-T meeting of the year turns out to be a great night for gossip. Someone has blu-tacked my name on the door and is handing out names and room-number lists to mums, dads, grannies and grannies' boyfriends as they arrive.

Thankfully I'm at the dark end of the corridor so they first head for Finnegan at the other end, happy in the knowledge that he only believes in something called "constructive criticism". All that means is that the kids think he is gay.

As I spot Cian Fingerton's dad, a concerned parent who as gossip has it wants to "bate me", because I called his son a "gobdaw", I find myself considering removing my name from the door, turning off the light and jumping out the window.

However, before that very large and aggressive parent can reach me, the welcome and unexpected sight of an old friend emerges from another room.

It's Sinead Hammond, a friend from my teen years of hanging around the old hometown with nothing to do all day except flirt, gossip and smoke Rothmans.

She's as surprised as I am, but do I see disappointment and scorn mixed in there? Like, "there's your man and after all that crud about becoming a rock star, he ended up as a teacher?" OMG! Wait till she tells the old gang!

I usher her into my room with a "what on earth are you doing here?" and it's all hugs and kisses.

Seems she's the mother of fifth year's Cory Hammond, a well-known eccentric with his upside-down Satanist crucifix, dyed black hair and the obsession with knives.

Sinead is as candid as ever. "Even though he worships Lucifer, he's a lovely boy and I want him to get a decent Leaving Cert," she says. It's in my interest to keep Sinead here and apart from catching up on all the gossip, I've got to keep Mr Fingerton out of this class room. They say he broke a teacher's nose in his son's primary school.

Sinead tells me she's separated and that she met Marty, my best mate from school, at a night club in Dublin and how they got very drunk together and swapped stories of heartless ex-partners. Not how Marty tells it, I laugh to myself.

To keep her in the room for as long as possible, I go through the list of teachers she has to see, applying a rating system of "eejit" or "sound" and give her a tour of my students' art work.

As soon as she leaves, Mr Fingerton takes her place. I give a little scream but thankfully he's come to make peace.

He's huge and they say he's been in prison, but it seems that his son has exaggerated his fearsome reputation. Nobody had their nose broken in Cian's primary school and like everybody else tonight he just wants to fix things for his kid. What a relief!

Irish Independent

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