Helen Lyne

writer, spoken word poet

A Gentleman and a Scholar, first place in the Stringybark, Dog Eat Dog Competition, published in A Gentleman and a Scholar, Thirty-four Award Winning Short Stories from the Stringybark Short Story Awards, edited by David Vernon, 2017. Here is an extract.
It was the first day of the school year. Christine tried to still her shaking hands. Although approaching retirement, she always felt apprehensive before meeting a new class. She supposed it must be like stage fright for an actor. She wasn’t too ambitious. She just wanted her students to manipulate language well and appreciate the authors they were studying.

Striding towards the classroom, she asked herself questions that toppled the self-confidence she’d built up over the holidays.

Am I getting too old?

Will I still be able to communicate with them?

Will they start by hating Shakespeare and end up hating him even more?

Will they laugh at my jokes?

Will they even recognise when I’m making a joke?

Outside the classroom which thumped with raucous male voices, she paused and admonished herself.

Look firm, organised and full of energy.

Don’t let them think you’re a fluffy teacher who wants to be their friend.

Go in swinging. (I can use clichés if I like, but only to myself.)

The streaming of English classes according to students’ subject choices meant that her Year 11 class had nineteen boys and six girls. They’d all chosen Physics, Chemistry and another science and the highest level of Maths. They’d probably do their Maths homework every night just for the joy of it. English would be their lowest priority.

A decision had to be made in the next few seconds. How would she make her entrance – come in unobtrusively and wait for silence, or burst in and take command? Both those techniques were part of her repertoire. The first was her natural style. She opted for that.

She strolled into the classroom, skirted a group of boys grieving in trumpet tones about having to walk out of this morning’s epic surf, put her books on the teacher’s desk and stood beside it, a pencil clasped loosely in her hands. She thought of the pencil as a symbol of her authority – a fantasy no student could possibly imagine. Silence fell in pockets until “Bloody English – bor-ring!” from a sneering male voice tumbled into a void.