To run a school or college, you need discipline. A firm hand!
The trouble is, you're not allowed to use the belt -
more than your job's worth!
So how do you cope with the troublemakers?


When it came to smooth running, and the unruffled tranquility of classical educational establishments, I don't think we'd be talking about the Lower Methil Annexe of East Fife Technical College. We had students ranging from TV mechanics who were the over-provided sons of local bookmakers, through apprentices that were more interested in motorbike racing than studying mathematics, to schools day-release students whose only apparent talent was to act as the aiming point for artillery in some future conflict. Sadly, the Army always had an urgent need for cannon-fodder.
There might have been a budding artist who would go on to world wide fame - but then, again, perhaps not.
A famous artist from Methil? Can't see it myself.

Inevitably, the odd culture clash might occur ...
"Seez yer dinner money, or ah'll weld yer steel taecaps tae the girders!"
"But my mother provides me with money to purchase a sustaining and healthy lunch!"
Zizz zizz crackle zizz! Tinkle, clatter, tinkle!
"If ah wis you, ah widnae untie mah boot laces. No withoot arrangin a pillow on the flair furst. An' thanks for the cash."
... but on the whole, the teaching staff could cope (experience really counts!) and the discipline in the Annexe was pretty good. Being fair, most of the students had been brought up in the local schools, and we rarely saw any nonsense from them. The rare eruptions of anger and frustration were due, more to the occasional pubescent hormone kicking in, than any thought of rebellion.

For the troublemakers - and we did have some - there was 'Rico' Napier! Usually, any wee bit of trouble in the college was quickly quashed by a raised eyebrow, or a firm look. If a voice had to be raised, then it was serious, and in that situation, the troublemaker suddenly found himself alone in the middle of a room. Fellow students, and staunch comrades of a moment ago, would move away as though belatedly noticing the 'Leper' notice that hung around the miscreant's neck.
The students had a lot of respect for the staff. They even called me 'Sir', and I was only a lab technician. If they found respect to be too much of a burden, then they were sent to Rico! If anyone specialized in being a 'character', it was Rico Napier. In an establishment where Quasimodo could gain fair employment as a beautician, Rico stood out.
His nickname came from the perpetual roll-up that smouldered through an inch of ash. Always threatening to set alight his thick, grey moustache but never quite succeeding, the home made ciggy grew out of the corner of his mouth like a straggly shrub on a cliff face, with the ash clinging on like the hero in a matinee thriller.
Every lunchtime, one of the students would be sent to the local shop for a packet of Rico cigarette papers and a half-ounce of Golden Virginia. Somehow, that roll-up never seemed to get shorter, and thinking back, I can't ever recollect seeing Rico swapping the old doup for a new, full-size replacement.
I've seen Rico's wedding photo. Watched him ride away on his ancient Velocette motorbike. Even seen him swimming in Burtisland pool. But I've never seen him without that constant trail of cigarette smoke curling up past his horn-rimmed glasses.
Except the once. And for that, I can blame Malky McLaren.

Rico, as well as teaching Mathematics, was the College Registrar. He handed out the Official Warnings. The College wasn't allowed to use any form of corporal punishment. Primary schools could belt the bairns, and secondary schools had the additional penalty of 'Rugby' or 'Cross Country Running', but Colleges could only hand out written warnings. Any member of staff who laid a finger on a student, was immediately dismissed, regardless of provocation. Any persistant offender who had accumulated three written warnings, was reported to the Principal at the main college. If the Principal agreed that enough was enough, then that student was expelled.
That was the theory, anyway.

In practice, the final warning notification was always returned by the Principal with a suitable homily attached ...

"While the College expects the highest standards from its Staff and its Students, we feel that hasty and ill-considered actions have no place in modern Educational Methods.
While in no way condoning or accepting any unacceptable behaviour, we feel that an appeal to the inherent decency of Adolph Hitler
(not the actual name, of course, but the letter would have been the same if it had been Joe Stalin or Atilla the Hun) would have resolved these issues, and staff are exhorted to increase their efforts to achieve a mutual understanding. We feel that expulsion would not be in the best interests of the student. Instead a firm but fair approach should be used.
We must remind the student of the serious nature of a 'Final Warning' and urge the student to behave accordingly."

Or in the case of Malky McLaren ...
"Eff you! Ah'm on mah sixth Final Warning, an there's nuthin yis c'n dae! Touch me an it'll be your erse that skites aff the pavement. No mine. So there!"
All in all, a thoroughly unpleasant individual.
We had Malky as a Schools Day Release. Malky as a Pre-Apprentice Student. We all prayed that Malky wouldn't join the National Coal Board as a Mining Apprentice and prolong our agony for another few years. The local garages wouldn't have him, and all the TV Apprentices had spread the word to their employers, so he wouldn't be coming back that way. We just had to wait him out.
Malky was truly the cause of our Anus Horribilis (and no, it isn't spelled wrong. I did 2 years of Latin, and the spelling is quite deliberate). Like a putrid little superman, invulnerable and incorrigible, Malky swaggered through that year.
I knew that he was responsible for the trouble at the TV Exhibition, but proving it was impossible. I would have cheerfully lumbered him with the Wrath of the Principal, over the missing alloy wheels and tyres. But with a sleekit little rat like Malky, someone else would have ended up on the long walk. Evil he might be, but not stupid with it. He knew how to twist any situation, no matter who was hurt.

It was near the final term of the College year, and I caught Malky at it. Again! He was round the back of the College, in the shaded alcove where the Fire Exit came out. A dingy little corner, ideally suited to Malky McLaren and his nasty little ways. In this instance, he was bullying some of the younger students. And Malky knew that the whole point of bullying was humiliation.
Not physical hurt, or even pain. Humiliation.
Do it right and the victim won't complain. Who wants to face further humiliation in front of a bigger audience?

My appearance brought a halt to Malky's little thuggery. In a second, he had on a greasy smile that would lubricate a railway wagon.
"Hullo Surr! Nuthin happenin here, a no boys?"
His victims of a moment before looked relieved at my presence, but I knew that there was no way that they would speak out against Malky. I couldn't be around all the time.
"Right, McLaren! Time to go visit Mr Napier again."
"No done nuthin! Naebody here'll report me. Is that no right?"
"Not them, McLaren. I'm reporting you. Move it!"
I prodded him the direction of Rico Napier's office.
"Heh! You watch it! You ca' touch me like that. Ah'll complain, an it'll be yer job!"
The younger students took the opportunity to vanish, leaving just me and Malky heading up the steps. I leaned forward, and spoke quietly.
"No witnesses Malky. Accidents happen."
"You ca' dae that!"
He didn't sound totally convinced. "Ah hae mah rights!"
I can only take so much of Malky, and today, I had exceeded my quota.
"The office, Malky. In!"
"See's a get you on yer ain, ah'll gie ye the malky!"
Our Mr McLaren had styled himself after some of the Easterhouse tough men. I suppose, in his eyes, it made up for the deficiences that he would never own up to.

"Mr Napier. I have Mr McLaren for you. The usual. Bullying and intimidating the younger students."
Rico looked at Malky through his trademark smoke trail.
"Well, Malcolm, what do you have to say this time?"
The look that Malky gave Rico, when he mentioned his first name, was malevolent in the extreme. Did Malky really hate his real name that much?
"It's Malky McLaren to youse!" he snarled "Naebody better forget it!"
Rico raised the one eyebrow, initiating a spiral in the smoke signal.
"It's Malcolm McLaren in the Register, and it'll be Malcolm McLaren on the Written Final Warning."

And that is where Malky went made his mistake, and in his selfish anger, intruded into the lives of others.
On Rico's desk sat a photograph. To be exact, three photographs in a single frame. The kind that folds, so that the frame can stand on a desk. On the left was a picture of Rico and his wife. A wedding picture. The groom was young, dark haired, and - inevitably - smoking a roll-up! The bride was smiling; she didn't seem to mind. On the right was Mrs. Napier in later life. Older, greyer, but still smiling. In the middle was their only daughter, Catherine.
Catherine was smiling too. It was the smile of innocent happiness. Catherine had never worried about the troubles of the world. Catherine was a Down's Syndrome child, though in those days, the common term was Mongolism.
Catherine loved everybody, and Bob Napier loved Catherine. In one of those rare moments when two men relax and confide in each other, Bob had told me about Catherine. Of the hurt from others, and the unstinting love that Catherine gave, even to those who spoke badly of her, in their ignorance.
People like Malcom McLaren.

"Ah'm no go tak onny talkin tae fae the likes o you. You ca' touch me. Ah'm no stupid like that dochter o' yours! Bit o' the Chinky got there furst, eh Mister Napier?"
Rico never moved. After the briefest moment, the cigarette ash let go and shattered into little grey flakes on the dark, polished desk top. As the ash struck, I felt the rage inside me explode. Like a bolt from a crossbow, my arm shot forward and grabbed Malky by the front of his shirt. He weighed less than nothing. He was nothing. I just wanted to break him.
His face paled as though lifting him had left all the blood behind. He looked scared. I wanted him to be scared. I wanted to ...

The gentlest touch on my shoulder stopped me. Held me back in a way that no anchor chain could match. Bob spoke quietly.
"Put him down. He's not worth your job. And Catherine wouldn't be angry. Not even with the Malcolm McLarens of this world."
I dropped him.
Malky sat on the floor till some colour came back. Rico and I just stood there watching. Whatever came next didn't matter. Eventually, Malky stood up, shaking, eyes downcast.
"Malcom" said Rico, "That was your final warning. Understand?"
Malky nodded, still unable to look at Rico.
"Then go. Back to your class. No more trouble."
Without any words, thoroughly deflated, Malky left.

I turned to look at Bob, but he was looking at the photograph. Everybody in it was smiling. I guess I was too. Never gave any further thought about my job, or Malky that day. If Catherine didn't mind, why should I?

Though Malky stayed just as obnoxious till the end of his final year, he never made another outrageous move that would bring him up in front of Rizla Napier. He never reformed; just hid it a little better. And he always had a quick dirty look at me if he thought I wasn't looking. I noticed Malky!
But nasty looks don't feature in the rule book. I ignored them.

End of term. The last day. No work, just a little celebration. Congratulating the successful students, and consoling those who would be back next College year. Time to go home, relax, and forget everything for a precious few weeks.
As I waited at the bus stop, Malky McLaren came swaggering up. We had shared the same bus trip for the past few years, but discipline on the bus was the driver's responsibility - not mine. Malky wasn't my problem, and after that day, I might never see him again. No hardship there.
"Well, Mister Jumped-Up Technician, ah'll no hiv tae listen tae onny o your shite again. Ah'm finished with this f****** College, that's fur shair. Ah've got a guid joab lined up wi mah uncle, an ah'll no hae tae share this rubbish bus wi useless fat erses like you an thae miserable excuses fur teachers."
At that point, the bus pulled up. It was a double-decker; one of the new ones with the folding pneumatic door at the front, next to the driver. I was first in the queue, but Malky tried to push right by on my left-hand side.
"Ah'm no at the wee crap college onny mair, so ah dae have tae wait fur you tae tell me what tae dae!"
He was right! For once in his life, Malcolm McLaren was right.

I grabbed the chrome metal bar that divided the bus doorway. I had been a fair athlete in my school days, and that wasn't too long ago. My feet came up as I spun around the pole, and I drop-kicked Malky in the midriff and propelled him clear across the pavement. With a whoosh of expelled breath, he skidded on his backside and ended up sitting in the middle of a large puddle.
The spin brought me upright, and I was neatly placed to offer the driver my bus fare. He grinned and held up his hand, refusing the money.
"You keep it, son. This ane's on me. I've been wanting to that to that little gnaff for a year now!"
The rest of the bus queue filed on board. Judging by the smiles, Malky was a majority of one. As the doors closed, leaving Malky to his long, wet and uncomfortable walk home, I could hear his plaintive wail.
"You ca' dae that! You ca' hit a student! You'll lose your job!"
I murmurred softly, more to myself than Malky.
"End of the year, Malky! You're no longer a student ...
... and you're well past your final warning."

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