Jim Mannell : I Write

What the book is about


In a flashback to the Fifties, the seeds of the future teacher are sown in the shy, studious Bankie boy and we follow him through the all-male world of his early schooling.  After his blooding in classroom teaching, during which he is attacked by a horde of adoring Beatle girls in a sixth grade class and faces one of the worse classes he’ll ever get at high school, he goes on to become a dynamic, exuberant teacher, although a somewhat hyperactive prankster. Co-ed schools are real eye-openers for the naïve young man, who recounts hilarious anecdotes of life at the chalkface.


Promoted to head teacher languages, as he struggles to keep the languages flag flying, he encounters colourful, bizarre, misogynistic and patently unhinged characters (teachers, students and parents) but his sense of humour keeps him going.  Hilarious incidents abound:  the school assembly run by an inarticulate sports master, Jim’s experiences as a colour-blind timetabler and the madcap episode of the Pest Poker.


He eventually lands a deputyship against all odds and his first tour of duty is at a lovely rural school he regards as utopian…except that he is a single man and there are no available women in town, but plenty of tiger snakes. He moves on.


He moves on to become the DP of a blue ribbon Sydney school in desperate need of disciplinary overhaul. There he finds a bewildering mix of chalkies and kids, friends and enemies and then there’s the Department and its obsession with change and the nerve-racking march of Technology.


Almost from the start the new DP is under siege. He is more a juvenile law enforcement officer than an educator, forced to deal with truancy, harassment, trespass, personal attack, graffiti vandalism, drug-taking, bomb hoaxes and arson. There are still enough heart-warming episodes and humorous incidents to keep him going, but stress takes a heavy toll and he spends his last couple of years at the school trying to break out.


His move to a new school doesn’t turn out to be the move to beat all moves. In many ways the new territory is even more punishing than the old. He’s still a school cop. His latest escape is a daring one: he relinquishes his deputyship after 13 years and becomes a specialist teacher all over again. It’s a challenge he relishes, but in his fortieth year as a chalkie, his long-running spinal disorder suddenly takes him out of the game….