Good Morning Mr Snake! - Charles Todd
My final teaching practice (Autumn 1976) was at King Edward the VI School, Totnes. On my first day I was sitting in the staff common room waiting to be summoned in to the Head's office for his welcoming chat. I was a naive twenty year old and was a little over whelmed by the surroundings but was grateful when a couple of seasoned teachers came over to me for an ice breaking conversation. During the chat they told me that the Head liked his staff to be confident and sociable and that I should go into the study and offer my hand to shake and wish the Head, Mr Snake, a good morning. I thanked them for this advice and after a while they disappeared to their classrooms to register the children.
When the time came for me to knock on the Head's door I duly entered when commanded and walked up to the Head's desk, stuck out my right hand and said, "Good morning Mr Snake, my name is Charles Todd and I am pleased to be at your school!" I was a bit disappointed when my hand was ignored and I was told to "sit over there" on a settee. I was lectured to about the need to be punctual to lessons and to be always neatly dressed etc. After a few minutes my audience was over and I was shown the door. As I was about to depart the Head looked me in the eye and said, in an undisguised menacing voice, "By the way, Todd, If I was you, the first thing I would do when I join a new school is to find out the name of the Head. My name is SNAPE; don't forget it!"
I didn't forget it, and I didn't breathe a word of what happened to the old lags who set me up on that first day, I was too ashamed of my own gullibility.
Things didn't get any better for me on day two. I was travelling in my own car down to Totnes from Exeter on a daily basis for the first two weeks, before taking up lodgings in the town. Trying hard to do what my new Head had told me, to get to school on time, I nevertheless, some how found myself behind schedule and racing against the clock. I managed to arrive at the school car park with a couple of minutes to spare but I mis-judged my car's turning circle as I screamed into the nearest parking space and clipped the wing of a stationary car. I rather sheepishly made my way to the school office clutching the registration number of the car hastily written on to a scrap of paper torn from my planner. I told my story to the receptionist who gtave a sigh and said, "Oh dear, That's the Head's secretary's car."
My head dropped, my teaching career over, so I perceived, before it had even begun. Fortunately for me, the lady owner was a delightful woman and didn't make a fuss about her dented car wing. I paid up and the repair was completed in a matter of weeks. I became the butt of a lot of jokes in the staffroom and I tried from then on to lead an inconspicuous life in the school.
Some how I managed to pass the TP with flying colours and so a career in teaching was made possible after all.
One final event from that spell in Totnes in the winter of 1976 was the "celebration" of my twenty-first birthday, which was a dull affair, it being spent on a mid-week evening in a lousy pub on Totnes high street with only one other Lukey present and three grey old locals propping up the bar. We made up for it when we returned to Luke's the following weekend!
Charles Todd (Killerton 1974/75)