Yes, there had indeed been a meeting, possibly the sort of thing that might be called an emergency council. We didn’t know about it at the time, it was much later that a fellow pupil in my new school told me in confidence, urging me never to reveal the ‘secret’. Or else her Dad, who was a member of the school’s governing body, would get into deep trouble. She also confided that her Dad and my Dad shared political sympathies; if these were known they would jeopardise his position. I was a loyal little body but also so cowed by now that I obeyed without thought, not even telling my parents. I don’t think I ever did.
Herr Thomanek stood above us on the level half landing with Mum and me on the steps below him. His physical attitude was that of a bully but his voice had softened a little. He seemed to be uncomfortable and spoke quietly. I was crying enough not to be able to hear him anyway; Mum listened, she didn’t speak for a long time. She nodded and appeared to agree with him and said to me “I’ll tell you when we get home.” They didn’t explain or ask my opinion..
Before we turned back down the stairs to leave I urgently wanted to make Thomanek understand that I never meant to be ‘cynical’ (whatever the word meant) and that I only smiled at him during lessons because I liked them. Hopefully, I lifted my tear-streaked face, but he turned abruptly, without looking at me.
In the German Secondary School System Middle School was the less academic branch of higher education. Although core subjects were taught, i.e. foreign languages, maths, geography, history etc., the school for academically gifted children was the Grammar School, where subjects included classics, science, music, German literature, etc. School fees were higher and students stayed on to 18/19 years of age.
At that time, in the 1950s and early 60s, both Middle and Grammar schools were occupying the same large building. It was one of the few in the town left unbombed and everywhere schools and other establishments budged up to make room for those who had lost their premises.
The heads of both schools, their senior staff and representatives of the governing body, including my fellow student’s Dad, had decided that the situation in Thomaneks’ classroom had become toxic and it would be impossible to restore order. I would have to leave. I would be offered a place in the same year at the Grammar School; school fees would be waived and I would continue to receive a scholarship. It was to be hoped that I was bright enough to catch up. It was fait accompli. Take it or leave it. The alternative was to return to basic education in the ordinary compulsory state system for all children, which precluded any chance of further academic education. Nowadays the choice would be called a No-Brainer.
Within days I was a Grammar School pupil. Some teachers disliked me from the beginning, rumours of misconduct had gone round both schools but, as now and always, gossip and rumours come and go. The girl whose Dad had spoken up for me and my parents befriended me, we discovered a joint liking for literature and poetry. I didn’t catch up in all subjects, certainly not in those I hadn’t been taught for three years, and I slipped from being top of the class to somewhere in the middle. By and by new, younger teachers came for whom I was an ordinary pupil, not tainted with having caused a teacher’s fall from grace, and we took/didn’t take to each other as such things are arranged in the natural course of events.
Middle School and Grammar School took outdoor breaks at different times but on the same school playground. Sometimes we’d overlap slightly and I’d see Thomanek doing supervising duty. I knew better than to smile at him and besides, he always turned his back on me.
there’s a paragraph or two to do with another lamp to come and a bit of an afterword. But the drama is all over.