I retired last year and decided to move house. You need a project when you suddenly find that you have time on your hands.

Packing up the office/back bedroom was easy; bin bag everything.

Loading up my fifth plastic sack, I noticed the ‘Letters Folder’, tucked in a long-ignored curriculum assessment file. A wad of letters, I had kept from my early days of teaching. Maybe I had plans to publish them one day.

Flicking through them, brought back surprisingly clear memories of Mrs. Rogers. I removed all the debris from the office chair, sat down and started to read.

Dear Mr. Holmes.

            Charlie will not be doing PE this week as I will not be packing his kit.

            Yours, Mrs. Rodgers.’

There were several examples of this type of letter.

And my all time favourite.

I would have laughed then as I laugh now.

Dear Mr. Holmes.

            When I find my glasses, I will write to you to tell you why Charlie wont be in school next week.

            Yours, Mrs. Rogers.’

There wasn’t a follow-up letter. I guess she never found her glasses.

I received thirty-three letters in one year and thirty two excuses, as to why Charlie wasn’t doing something.

Thirty-two reasons why Charlie was a lonely, unhappy and dispirited child.

And there was the one letter that brought a rye smile to my face, even though it hadn’t received the same reaction all those years ago.

Mr. Holmes.

            If you ever force Charlie to do PE again you will have my husband to answer to. He should not wear any spare kit.

            Do not do it again.

            I can tell you that my husband can be violent.

            Yours, Mrs. Rogers.’

I dropped the letters onto the desk and scooped them into the bag. Then I just sat there for a while and wondered if somewhere there is an employer, collecting letters from Charlie’s mum.

            ‘Dear Sir.

            Charlie will not be in work tomorrow, as he has to stay at home to help me find my glasses.

            Yours, Mrs. Rogers.’


Originally published: The Times Educational Supplement