The Lamp-post

Three-minute story

The Lamp-post

It had been a really good afternoon out with the class. A theatre matinée had finished early enough for us to hit the streets in daylight. Before we got back on the underground there had been a zebra-crossing on the Euston Road and we had performed the John Cleese funny walk for the benefit of the motorists, their encouragement a bonus for my students.

Back at Barking their mood had changed little. They were due to find their own ways home from the station but they gathered round me, not so much as to say goodbye but rather to ask what we were going to do next. We stood next to the station fore-court and I pointed out a lamp-post to one side of the road and explained the psychological experiment that they were about to undertake. Never have my instructions to a class been followed so painstakingly.

In ones and twos they drifted across to the lamp-post and stood there, casually, ignoring one another, and looking fixedly up at the lamp. By the time that half the class were stood there one or two members of the public slowed down. Some of them paused and looked up as if there must surely be something there that they had not noticed previously. Soon the whole class was in position. More passers-by joined them and soon they outnumbered my students.

One of the girls looked across at me and I nodded. Slowly my students drifted back in ones and twos across the fore-court. We assembled and looked across to where they had been standing and tried to count the number of their victims who were still standing there, watching the lamp as if something was going to happen soon.

It was time to go home, I told them, and one or two of them did set off, but the others proved most reluctant, hoping for more amusement before the group broke up. Looking back now, I realise that of all the classes I taught, on this occasion they were the most difficult class I ever had to dismiss.

What do you think the instructions were that the teacher gave his students?

Why were these students so reluctant to go home?
Do you think teachers should encourage students to play jokes?

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