The old Northland teacher had retired months before, but a desperate plea from the principal of a large school saw him put his fishing gear away and agree to a couple of days' relieving work."

Room number ... and I'm sorry but it's a problem class with a number of very anti boys. Sorry but their usual class teacher has burnt out."

The old survivor of over 40 years of teaching sailed into the class with a "Kia ora katoa, maths time I believe." Groans and moans everywhere, and several loud, "We hate maths, especially decimals."

Read more: Editorial: Respect for teachers lacking in education system


The old boy launched into a tale of the mighty Roman Empire and what they did in ancient times. Battles, buildings, their sports plus illustrations.

There was still a chalk blackboard in the room. He suggested that the Romans were winners.

The old boy explained they were smart and made maths easy, which was why old measurements and fractions were yuck. The principal, who was listening outside, ready to come to the rescue, heard the class counting in tens then hundreds and decided things were amazingly under control.

Playtime and room ... were still inside, not wishing to leave the decimal system and the clever Romans of ancient times; .5 had well and truly replaced , and had become .75 "Simple man."

At lunchtime several staff were happy to see a developing fight in the playground stopped with a loud " Knock that fighting off!" from the old boy as he wandered the playground with a cup of coffee and a gaggle of pupils.

Chatting in the principal's office at the end of the school day they were interrupted by several of the problem boys from room ... with a, "Please Mr ... , would you please come back and be our teacher?"

That gave the old boy a lift, but he knew he no longer fitted the system as it was now, and that he had snapper to catch.