I had arranged a theatre visit for my sixth-formers, Shakespeare, up in town. At the end of school there was a parent to see me. Mr Khan strode across the car park with his son and his daughter in tow, stretched out his hand and greeted me with a smile and a polite, “How are you Sir?” No parent could set a better example to his children.
There was a problem. “My family’s rules will not allow me to send my daughter on this trip. I would very much like her to go and I do appreciate all that you do in teaching both my children, but I am not allowed to send my daughter out in the evening in the company of a man who is not a member of our family.” He looked straight at me, aware that his children were watching all this and aware that it might not be something that I would readily understand. He continued.
“I’m very sorry Mr Inson but I will have to return this ticket.”
For the moment I kept my hand by my side; once I had accepted the ticket that would have been an end to the matter. Then there was Aziz, the twelve year-old younger brother who was in another of my classes.
“Mr Khan. Aziz is a fine student of mine and it would be good for him to see the play – we’re just starting Shakespeare. Could he chaperone his sister?”
Mr Kahn turned and looked down at his son.
“What a good idea, Aziz.” Aziz was clearly not sure but his father continued. “Aziz, you must thank Mr Inson for agreeing to take you as well.” Aziz was still unsure as his father pulled out his wallet. “How much is the extra ticket, Mr Inson?”
And how did all this work? Mr Khan was very clear about his respect and support for me as a teacher and this made it much easier to find a way round the problem. Mr Khan spoke to me about what he was and was not able to do, not about what he would or would not allow me to do. So easy, so effective and such great fun – thirty years ago, in Dagenham.