This is not a serious piece – just joyful.
Many years ago I used to read Just William stories to our son whether he wanted to hear them or not. The most remarkable, given how I’ve spent my working hours, is William and the Temporary History Master. In this story William Brown has a new history teacher. The previous incumbent, “a mild and elderly man, conveniently short-sighted, conveniently deaf, and still more conveniently fond of expounding his own historical theories without in the least minding whether anyone listened to them or not”, had fallen ill. The replacement was, “a small, smug man with protruding teeth and a manner that hovered between the hearty, the jocular, and the sarcastic. He had, moreover, modern theories about the teaching of history. He believed in making it real by acting it.”
Just to show there’s nothing much new this story dates from 1931.
Sadly Mr Renies, the temporary teacher plunged into acting out the past before, as every trainee-teacher would point out, he’d built up his understanding of his pupils. Amusing himself by making “clever little jibes” at his pupils he made the mistake of embarrassing William in front of his own class and then confiscating his watch. The rest of the story is too joyous to spoil by paraphrasing it but in the end Mr Renies gets his come-uppance. Angrily chasing William through the darkness, he blunders into a pond and then “dripping and dishevelled” stands impotently as William, out of reach, taunts him with “I’m actin’ being Charles II in the oak tree now”.
The next morning Mr Renies entered the class-room, sat down at the master’s desk, and said: “Open your note-books, please.”
“Please, sir, aren’t we going to have any acting today?” said a boy in the front row.
“Acting?” repeated Mr Renies, as if he did not understand.
“Yes, sir. Acting history scenes.”
“Acting history scenes?” said Mr Renies in a tone of great surprise and indignation, “of course not. I never heard of such a thing. Open your note-books and take down the following dates.”
You can find the whole story in the William collection William’s Crowded Hours which seems to cost one whole penny (plus postage) second hand. Apart from anything else it’s a great example of how not to tackle class management!