Six months after suffering what must have been a highly traumatic criminal assault, he started work at the recently-opened Wyedean Comprehensive where he was to remain until his retirement in 1997, but there, too, there was a high level of delinquency and the headmaster, an erudite man who may have been a partial model for Dumbledore's dreamy detachment, at first treated this with a sort of benign unconcern. [He had white hair, too, if I remember correctly, although not a beard.] At a staff training session about a third of the staff complained to a counsellor that they couldn't teach because the students wouldn't listen to them: the headmaster hoped that the experience had been "cathartic" for them, but did nothing about the underlying problem. Students in some of the classes were verbally abusive to John almost from the start, and in May 1975 he became the sixth Wyedean teacher that year to be physically attacked: a gang of six boys were hanging about in a classroom where he had a class coming in in ten minutes, and as he shooed them out of the room he put his hand on one boy's shoulder to steer him along and was punched in the face again, bending his glasses.
At this point, and following John's angry protests, the headmaster having initially done nothing now went to the other extreme, and re-introduced corporal punishment for students who were physically or verbally abusive to the staff. The headmaster and two deputies were allowed to cane students, and the heads of department, including John, were permitted to use a slipper on aggressive boys.
Although he had originally been against corporal punishment, after the violence he had witnessed and suffered at Caldicot and Wyedean John now approved of this measure, as a last resort in order to regain and maintain order. I did and do think that he was wrong, and in fact we had a serious fight about it: I know from my own circle of friends and a long-term interest in abuse issues that delinquent children very often turn out to be abuse victims of one sort or another, and I considered John's belief that he would necessarily be able to spot whether these children were emotionally disturbed or not, or that somebody higher up the academic chain would have identified them as such before they got to him if they were, was hopelessly naive. On the other hand, the students in question were all ones who had attacked the staff either verbally or physically, and it could be argued that if you attack somebody you can't really complain if they hit you back.
John maintained that this move did work and did restore order, but if so it was evidently temporary, or his memory was selective, because the conversations on the Wyedean forums show that by the 1980s violence against the staff and especially against John himself was endemic, despite the severe canings handed out by a teacher called Mr Mooney (really). Part of my argument against corporal punishment was, precisely, that it doesn't work - and it evidently didn't.
Former students on the forum talk about hearing that another pupil had thrown John out of a window in the Science Block: they weren't sure whether this was true or apocryphal but at the very least somebody had claimed to have thrown him out of a window, and other people had found this both funny and feasible. [It would, at least, have been a ground-floor window, for the Science Block was in a modular, prefabricated weatherboarded building like a cross between a Portakabin and a garden shed and known, bizarrely, as a terrapin, after the trade-name of a West Country firm which makes them.] Whether or not the window incident was true, at least one of the speakers claimed to have actually witnessed John being shoved against a wall and then lifted bodily off the ground by his throat so that "his little legs" were clear of the floor, which they all seemed to find amusing rather than disturbing.
Even a girl who had quite liked him and was marking his death with a sympathetic RIP admitted to having stuck a pin in his backside, and elsewhere she recalled another girl throwing a can of tuna at him. Another ex-student recalls one of their mates shouting "Stinger you mong!" at him (a "mong" at that time was abusive slang for a person with Down's Syndrome). Another recounted an incident in which John had sat him on a trolley and then tossed a medicine ball to him in order to demonstrate conservation of momentum and had accidentally knocked him off: he had responded by deliberately throwing the ball at John with intent to injure, and then complained that it was unfair of John to demote him as a result. Like Snape, John was fairly tolerant of behaviour few other teachers would put up with for five minutes, yet was blamed for trying to keep order at all. Another student boasted that John had had to be stopped from teaching her year because he was unable to get any control over them - all this during a period when, according to John, his situation was considerably better than it had been in his first year at Wyedean.
A student who was at Wyedean three years behind Rowling assured me that I was wrong, that if John said he had suffered violence there he was lying, that it was a peaceful well-behaved school and he had never heard of any aggression there - then admitted cheerfully that he too had heard that a fellow student had thrown John out of a window. As with the scene where Harry and co. accidentally knock Snape out while disarming him, and then don't bother to seek any medical help for him even though Harry thinks he looks as if he might be dead, it seems as if violence against John somehow wasn't seen as counting, it wasn't real or important if he was the victim. Because he was a resolutely sticky-out nail that wouldn't be hammered flat, he was regarded as fair game.
He would probably have got on better, ironically, if he'd been more obviously disabled but because he was so intelligent and self-aware and made an effort to cope with his problems, most people didn't realise he had hardly any social instincts and was frantically making it up as he went along, so they didn't cut him any slack. Instead of sympathy, he got mockery.