A wiry built man, bald-headed and heavily jowled, he was probably in his early-sixties. Perhaps he had seen service in the Second World War, he was of an age of many teachers who had been war veterans. Perhaps there were people with whom he would have had conversations about his younger days, if he did, they did not include anyone in our class. He tended to lean forward as he walked and he tended to glare rather than look. Perhaps his experience of life had made him wary of all whom he met. The one thing we knew with certainty, he had a ferocious temper when someone riled him and he was a man who was easily riled. Walking on eggshells would have been a heavy-footed way of going into one of his lessons, no-one wished to incur his wrath. It is hard now to remember exactly what he taught: there were art classes, but in the back of the mind there seem also thoughts of him having, perhaps, taught PE and geography. Most PE teachers would have taught another subject, but PE and art seem an unlikely combination.
The one certain memory of the man was that he was known as “Gorf” by all the pupils. Of course, he had a proper name, we must have addressed him as Mister Whatever, but whatever his name was, I’ve long since forgotten. “Gorf,” was a simple reversal of the word “frog,” which throws no light upon how he came by his nickname. He wasn’t the slightest bit froglike. Frogs are benign creatures unlikely to scare anyone, Gorf specialised in terrifying pupils he deemed to have crossed some invisible and arbitrary line. He could suddenly explode in rage across the classroom at some pupil who might be unaware of what misdemeanour they were thought guilty.
Gorf would probably be hard-pressed to find employment in a school today. Codes of conduct and expectations of teachers are such that mercurial behaviour is not acceptable (I do not remember Gorf actually hitting anyone, his tongue was sufficiently terrifying). Gorf would probably not wish to find employment in a school today. In memory, he was a man of very fixed views who would not have taken to the idea of having to adjust to developments in his subject. It is hard to imagine he would have had much regard for the edicts of the Department for Education.
Yet Gorf came to mind today because watching a good teacher having to endure obnoxious and anti-social behaviour brought thoughts of what would have happened to those responsible in his classroom in those distant days.