I’ll never know to this day why we called her “The Dragon”. Don’t even imagine we knew much about dragons, except they were possibly mythical creatures, maybe of Chinese origin. In those days, of course, we didn’t have google, twitter or social media and the only knowledge we gleaned was from encyclopaedias, if we bothered to look it up. However, Miss Warren, a languages teacher at our grammar school somehow acquired the title of “The Dragon”
Maybe it was because she primarily taught German and every time she emphasised how we should pronounce the”ich’s” and the “schl’ess” a spray of spit seemed to ignite the air around her. Maybe this was why we associated it with dragons, who we thought were supposed to spit fire and water.
Those of us sitting in the front row of her class would see the spray of spittle arise from her well opened lips and start to giggle – little whispered remarks like “have you got your raincoat” would be passed along the row.
“Shush” she would say in English this time, with the same sound giving rise to yet another shower and making us giggle all the more. ”Nein, sprechen ” zuhoren! Even the z spilled out with yet another spray. More giggles from 12-13 year olds, aussen zie (outside). One of us was sent out of the door! Okay, next step might be headmistress, who was an even more imposing figure than Dragon Warren. They wore gowns in those days at that prestigious school, St Martin’s in the Fields High School for Girls, to which as a young Council house kid, I’d been lucky enough to pass the 11+ and win a scholarship to.
Thinking about it this many years later, it seemed nearly all the teachers were a “Miss”, very dedicated to their profession. Miss Gordon-Ewen the headmistress, wore her gown and mortar board at Assembly and at other times when she needed to put the fear of God in to her young pupils
Dragon Warren was quite a large lady and seemed quite old, but I doubt if she was more than mid 30’s! (I always remember my grandmother, who went in to service aged about 14, saying that the parlour maid was very old, she was 26!)
So back to Dragon Warren – now I think about her, as hopefully a mature adult, she was probably a really nice woman, an excellent teacher – after all, she had me do the three year GCSE (GCE then) German course in two years and pass with 98%. Guess I must have concentrated once I was brought back contrite in to the room.
But the bad times we students gave the Dragon was nothing compared to what we did to the French teacher, Madame Browning. I clearly remember one day when we all decided to lay our heads on our desks and pretend to be asleep. When questioned by the desperate Madame, we explained that we had just had a Science lesson and used ether and this was causing us to become sleepy! That poor woman, she was so timid and apparently had a breakdown and had to give up teaching!
Over the years I have received the Old Girls Association newsletters and there were often references to Miss Warren which indicated what a kind, caring person she was, probably nothing like the dragon we labelled her. Ah, die Schule tagen – the happiest days of your life!!!