26 September 2012

Forcefield

To the left is Jeremy Forrest, a married thirty year old Maths teacher from Sussex in England and to the right is Megan Stammers, a fifteen year old pupil at the same Eastbourne school where Forrest once worked. But he will never work there again.

Effectively, he has abducted vulnerable Megan - even though it seems she went willingly with the fellow who gave her extra coaching in Maths before the summer holidays. They were seen holding hands on a cross-channel ferry last Thursday night and may still be somewhere in France together. Appeals have gone out but so far nothing has been heard of the pair apart from a phone call that Megan made to a friend to say that everything was okay.

But everything is not okay is it? Megan is still a minor, a child and Forrest is an adult - actually not just a man in the street but someone who was in the responsible position of educating other people's children. It was Maths he was meant to be focussing on not the possibilty of stealing away a gullible teenage girl  from a broken home - a girl who no doubt harbours starry-eyed notions of love and romance.

I just hope that this story does not have a disastrous ending and that Forrest is duly arrested and Megan gets home safely.

As a teacher myself, there was always an invisible forcefield between me and the possibility of "special" attachments with any of my pupils. It was a line I could never cross even though through the years I taught many lovely girls - some of them eighteen year old sixth formers when I was still in my mid twenties. I knew I was at work, not at a nightclub and I also knew that some teenage girls will swoon about young men in authority - developing crushes and I wasn't about to take advantage of my position . I was there to teach them.

At one Sheffield school, the O level and CSE exams had just finished and there was a knock on the staffroom door. Muriel Stonehewer went to open it. "Two young ladies want a word Mr Pudding," said Muriel.

I went to the door to find two Year 11 girls who had been in my English class. The first girl - I can't remember her name - had brought me a small box of chocolates as a  thank you gift. She said, "Ann Marie wants a word sir but you know she's shy."  Ann Marie was a quiet dark-haired girl, quite pretty and she had always got on well with the tasks I had set. She was quite good at English.

"What is it Ann Marie?" I asked.

It was then that Ann Marie lunged at me. I was caught off guard and slightly lost my balance as she snogged my face - in that moment releasing a torrent of pent up teenage frustration. I managed to push her away, no doubt blushing like a ripe beetroot. It was hard to know what to say but Ann Marie gasped, "I love you sir! I've always loved you!"

"...But I'm a teacher Ann Marie! I - I can't have anything to do with you! Not like that!" I garbled before retreating to the staffroom where Auntie Muriel was most curious about what had just happened. Fortunately Mrs Stonehewer and I were on good terms - she was my "head of year" and she was level-headed. She knew exactly how some teenage girls can be with male teachers. and reassured me that everything would be all right. And I never saw Ann Marie again.

Of course, Forrest should have pushed Megan away too. Teaching isn't just about the delivery of information and the honing of skills. There are people in the equation and psycho-emotional human dynamics at play but the bottom line is that "we" are responsible adults, paid to do a job and "they" are just children entrusted to us by their parents - they are in our care simply to learn and ultimately to get through exams. It appears that Forrest couldn't see the wood for the trees and has taken advantage of a child who should have been able to trust him. As I say, let's hope she's okay and gets home safely.

16 comments:

  1. bet you were hot stuff when you were younger YP
    shame about the ravages of time eh?

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  2. EARL GRAY Ha! Ha! Precisely. Such a teen fan assault would never have happened in my final years at the chalkface because by then I had become ugly as my profile picture proves.

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  3. It is, as you point out, a shocking betrayal of trust.

    I still don't know exactly how many adorable neices I inherited when I set up home with Marcia but tease as lots of teenagers like to do, they are just testing the water as they sort their hormones out. An adult taking advantage of such vulnerability really deserves some close attention of a rather more urgent kind. I was an expert at that in the old days but am willing to come out of retirement. But then, I was always a hot head so it should be the minds of the calm and objective that prevail. Only armed with the full story can we make a judgement and in so doing, offer this teacher the opportunity to hand himself in to twelve good men and true and not a lynch mob.

    What concerns me is that the longer he takes to regain his senses and the more public ire is aroused, he may lose them altogether, with potentially vile consequences.

    I was a soldier, Sir Pudding, and saw everything in black and white, which is why they never made me a General.

    What did you teach, by the way?

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  4. HIPPO I also worry about the potential "vile consequences" of this abduction. Why did I teach?...Well, that would take a while to explain but factors would include
    a) I was/am naturally good at it - a talent for teaching.
    b) I was teaching English in which creativity could blossom - not loathsome Maths like Mr Forrest.
    c) I was born in a schoolhouse because my dad was a village schoolmaster. I grew up with teaching just as miners' sons grew up with mining.
    d) At first I thought I could make a beneficial impact on the lives of some poorer children - slightly alter the status quo.
    e) The pay was okay - a steady job for life.

    Perhaps I'll devote a blogpost to this one day...

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  5. Some 15-year-old girls can, of course, appear very mature (even though they're not, emotionally) and some 30-year-old men can be very immature and have their heads turned easily by teenage adoration. I think it's tricky for young male teachers (I used to advise them never to go into the stock cupboard alone with female students!) What this man has done is of course wrong but I'm not surprised that this kind of thing happens from time to time.

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  6. When I was a junior in high school, one of my classmates had a crush on our school bus driver, who was probably 10 years older. They married a year later when she graduated and are still married to this day. I find that amazing. At the time it was just gross.

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  7. DAPHNE & JAN You both seem to show inklings of more forgiveness and understanding than I could possibly offer to Forrest. Essentially, he's a paedophile in my book and such people should surely not be working with children.

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  8. You're right, some youngsters (and not so young) develop crushes on their teachers - in my 24 years' teaching I think I've neatly sidestepped 3 or 4 possible cases. I say possible as I'm only judging by the looks the girls (and one woman) gave me and attitudes, though nothing has got anywhere near as far as an Anna Marie snog!
    The 5th case; I didn't sidestep as the "crush" was mutual, and we have now been together for 19 years, married for 16 of them :) In my defence, I have to say that my wife was already an adult (just!) when I met her (I teach all ages), and had left school.

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  9. We heard about this 'abduction' on our TV news YP. Yes, a teacher must always remember to maintain trust no matter what. Thanks for relating your personal experience - Dave

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  10. Just as an aside, Sir P, imagine if Ann Marie's friend had been in possession of a mobile phone camera and had snapped that crucial moment. The shit storm you would have endured after the photo did the rounds would have been unbelievable.

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  11. I think paedophile is a bit too strong a word.

    As somebody pointed out, some 15-year-olds can look and even act incredibly mature, and some 30-year-olds can be incredibly immature.

    OK, so this guy made a mistake, but it's not the end of the world, and I don't think it classes him as either a paedophile or an abducter.

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  12. BRIAN Your situation was clearly different as Lady Brian was an adult but I can hear that the matter did cause you a degree of angst.
    DAVE "Trust no matter what" - that's exactly it Dave.
    HIPPO Interesting question. . I think that Ann Marie would have been arrested for trying to suffocate me! But mobile phones can cause a lot of unwelcome mischief in schools.
    CUMBRIAN Of course you are entitled to your view but I stick with "paedophile" and "abductor". Forrest is probably worse than a stranger because he effectively used his position as a teacher to ensnare a child.

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  13. Paedophile - Somebody sexually attracted to children.
    I know this leaves it open to argument as to what are children? But this 15-year-old is more a young woman than a child. The French police stated that she was not too young sexually under French law.

    Abductor - somebody who kidnaps.
    I don't think this young woman was kidnapped, at least in the sense of the word as I understand it.

    From what I understand, the young woman went with the bloke willingly, has not been harmed, and is now safely back nome.

    I really agree this guy has made a big mistake, and caused a lot of un-necessary anxiety, but hardly paedophile or abductor?

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  14. CUMBRIAN You call her a "young woman" but she is a child and children's minds can easily be manipulated by cunning adults. They, like me, are from England and we don't live by French law. He was holding hands with the child on the ferry - clearly demonstrating an unhealthy "romantic" attraction. No I am afraid you have not persuaded me that my use of "paedophile" and "abductor" was somehow inaccurate or too strong. None of us should make any sort of apology for Forrest in my way of thinking.

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  15. By all means kill this comment, Sir Pud, but I feel I need to express rather a strong view on this. I shall start off gently.

    If I entrust my daughter or my son into the care of a responsible adult, I expect that that adult will neither fuck nor bugger them but instead guide them through the vulnerable stage all teenagers have to go through before they themselves become adults and can make their own considered decisions.

    I could not give a flying toss if the French feel it appropriate to shag teenagers, it has nothing to do with the awful betrayal of trust committed by this teacher.

    He should be taken to his place of origin and flogged to within an inch of his his life alongside all those apologising for him.

    He is an an adult who has committed statutory rape, now he must pay the price for his betrayal.

    But then again, some of you are evidently comfortable with the idea of your under age daughters being screwed in a broom cupboard while you think they are conjugating verbs.

    Get real.

    In Angola we'd have shot the bastard and have had done with it.

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  16. HIPPO At first I thought you were going to defend Forrest, humming "It Must Be Love" or something. Though I wouldn't have said it in such strong terms I am of course in total agreement with your sentiments on this matter. However, I doubt that Cumbrian would support your views.

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