I remember the breaktime monitoring teacher Mr Harrison* glance over in my direction and then look away again. I was in year 10 at the time and was raising my voice at a ‘friend’ who had decided to turn enemy on that particular cold morning. It had all started with a conversation about the school football team and who should play in midfield – me or my frienemy.
We debated each others particular skills and worth to the team and had yet to reach an agreement as to who was the better player. The subject of the conversation doesn’t matter to this recollection, as it was the volume of my voice that sparked Mr Harrison’s attention. He had now clocked on to an impending problem and was walking over. As he did so, my frienemy – oblivious to the incoming arbitration – decided to ramp up his efforts to make his point and the slight jostling between us escalated to a full-blown shove in my chest. He had a growing reputation as a bully.
Mr H was merely feet away at this point and reacted impeccably. Keeping his voice calm and collected, he said that there would be plenty of time to hear both sides of the story and ‘invited’ us to follow him to the year 10 entrance. We stood there in silence until the bell went for end of break and we then followed our judge & jury into an empty form room.
Then the best thing that happened to me in school that year, happened. Instead of dissecting the matter, Mr H told us a story of how he had scrapped his way through his last year of lower school, before leaving said London school’s ranks to enrol on a course at a college in Essex. How he wished that he had been mentored by the equivalent of his own adult self and how if that had happened, how his last year would have been so much more enjoyable.
After 10 minutes, we were told to act like young men and shake hands. We did and we never ever fell out again. Like magic, my friend stopped his harassment of others overnight and over a year later recounted the story to me and explained the effect that it had had.
Mr H is now ‘friends’ with me on Facebook and still as cool as f.
* Name changed