My wife and I know very little about our son’s secondary school life. His account of each day’s academic achievement is usually comprised of a vague grunt as he walks through the door at 3pm, before throwing his bag on the floor, grabbing a handful of biscuits and turning on the TV. Detail is not something we are given much of.
Today, however, there was plenty of detail as, exploding through the front door, he couldn’t wait to tell us about the event that had happened during this afternoon’s maths lesson. Speaking at a hundred miles an hour, he animatedly told us how one of the boys in his class had been sick, in spectacular fashion, over an unfortunate fellow student, the floor and corridor.
Shock and awe
The poor child in question, it transpires, had attempted to sprint from the back of the classroom to the front – and presumably onwards to the toilet – only to vomit in all directions and over everything in his path in the process. For a 12-year-old boy, this was manor from heaven, a defining moment in his secondary school career and a vision that will forever live long in his memory.
After hearing about the ferocity, sight, smell and content of the pupil’s unexpected spew, it got me thinking back to my own school years. I too remember those days and instances when something shocking happened to someone else, only to become a cherished memory and talking point for me and my mates for years to come.
There was the day James Timms broke his leg playing rugby, when legend has it the sound of the break echoed around the school. Then there was the gloriously funny day when Mr Klinger, the Geography teacher, fell off a wheely chair while changing a lightbulb. And who can forget when Mark Akerford set his puffer jacket alight by leaving it hanging against a 1980s fire-trap heater.
Memories are made of this
Secondary school life is full of moments like this, incidents – big and small – that will become the only thing that those they happen to are remembered for. The poor boy who puked in class today will, in 30 years’ time, still be ‘puke boy,’ the lad who vommed during maths. He will no doubt be talked about by my son and his friends when they reminisce about their school days, in much the same way as I recall Mark Akerford – who incidentally also travelled 15 miles back to a school residential centre after a group night out in the sixth form, only to find he still had his bowling shoes on.
The only thing any secondary school pupil today can hope for is that they do not themselves become known for a singular moment in their school lives. Of course, mobile phones add further peril to this prospect for children today. At least in my day, there was no chance that any accident, incident of misdemeanour could be recorded forever and shared with the planet. Today though, there’s every chance that puking at school will see you trending on social media before the end of the day.
Spare a thought for the teachers and school staff too. Not only did my son’s maths teacher attempt to continue with the class, ignoring the sick-covered child and treacherous floor, but he presumably had to organise the clear up afterwards. Outside of nursing and policing, there are few other lines of work where incidents like this would form part of normal working life.
But as much as these incidents are unfortunate for the person involved at the time, and for the teachers who have to deal with the aftermath, they are ultimately part and parcel of growing up and of going to school. If being showered in sick is the worst that happens over these precious and formative academic years, is that a bad thing?
I’d argue that school life, with all its characters and craziness, is a prelude to the drama of adult life anyway. For us, we might not have to deal with cleaning vomit off colleagues, but there’s a metaphorical puke boy in every office – he’s usually the one making a mess of whatever it is you’re doing and either blaming it on someone else or running for the nearest exit. You know who you are.
Update: He’s fine! The lad who so spectacularly exited his maths lesson, came back to school the next day.