The Ides of March. Or David Pass

I wonder who remembers this face. If any of his family ever come across it then please get in touch.

David’s birthday was on 15th March. He used to joke about the portents and then one day his worst fear was realised and he sadly died in May 1990, a very few weeks after being diagnosed with cancer of the kidney. I believe he was just fifty.

David was the Head of English at Ealing Green High School. He was a total inspiration, mentor and guide. Without an inkling. I was a supply teacher, specialist in English, but teaching French, drama, maths biology and electronics on occasion. I was the one being educated, I think, but maybe the boys learnt something on the way. Who knows?

At one point it was decided that I would be useful as a support teacher. And so I would support David. He was the epitome of the absent minded professor. Brainy, knowledgeable (in his spare time he tutored for the Open University and also did literary lectures in pubs, combining two of his greatest pleasures in one fell swoop!) and immensely scatty. It fell to me to sort out the exercise books, find the texts, and to scribe for him on the blackboard. His classroom was the only one which still had a dais and a rolling blackboard. Chalk dust everywhere. Quite wisely David still had a gown in school – the best apron for dust- but I possessed no such garment so would return home in a fine sprinkling of talc.

But I didn’t mind. David was a brilliant teacher. Enthusiastic, practical, full of ideas. He wasn’t a great disciplinarian, preferring to joke out bad behaviour (and believe me some of it was very bad) and he made me open my eyes to the potential in those boys.

The boys were many and various. Some extremely bright. Some not so much. But David had time for them all.

He was particularly interested in developing whole school literacy – quite a novelty in those days – and the programme which he helped set up, which was due to be rolled out nationwide, was called SAIL. Staged Assessments in Literacy. The whole school from years 7 to 11 started off together for an hour in the Hall to do the first paper; if they passed -account writing- they went on to stage two a couple of months later. If they didn’t, they had to try again. So potentially a pupil could pass all six in one year. Or they could take up to six times to pass the first stage. But it ensured the groundings were secure. And because they were marked in house the teachers knew where the problems lay and could work on them accordingly.

This might sound very obvious now, but it wasn’t necessarily so then.

I loved working with David in the classroom and I loved his departmental meetings. They don’t happen like this now. But then out would come the champagne, one or two of the ladies in the dept would knit or crochet and we would discuss …. I can’t remember. Syllabuses I suppose.

Lunchtimes too were fun. We would go to the Red Lion for the hour. David would have one pint and the proverbial packet of crisps. I would have a tomato juice and my sandwich. And that is when he would really come into his own, expounding on life, literature and love. He was madly in love with his beautiful wife and his little daughter Katy and his baby boy. His whole world pivoted round them and it was a delight to listen.

David was not perfect! He could be an embarrassment. We were at a party once and he met my husband for the first time. Almost his first words were “ Ah. So you’re the man who threw the steak at the kitchen door, watched it roll down the glass like a globule and then picked it up and fried it!” My husband’s face was a picture of incredulity. He turned to me: “Have you told everybody everything?” I had to say, “Not quite everything,” before I ran to talk to someone else.

Nevertheless it was a shock to everyone when he died. Thirty two years ago.

I then became head of English and spent the next two years wishing he was still there in person. His presence could still be felt all the time. He had an office full of books which displayed his most eclectic interests, so he was never far away.

And recently I found this photo, which brought back all the memories

Did you know him?

4 comments on “The Ides of March. Or David Pass

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