I actually found teaching maths to be extraordinarily rewarding. As I had no idea how to do it, it was a case of "make it up as you go along."
The gaol's governor was looking for some projects for some of the inmates, who were not working, to occupy their time. I told him that it would be a good idea to build a sundial out in the middle of the yard, so my maths students and I got to work to try and figure out how to do it.
Wayne was a guy of about 24 who had been in and out of gaol most of his life, right back to juvenile justice times. He was a chancer; a young gun who just ran with the crowd and picked up whatever bits of (completely illegal) work he could get his hands on - running messages between fat big-timers and politicians, working the streets for brothel-owners, and a couple of stints as a tough-boy. He'd also picked up a pretty serious heroin addiction along the way, but was having a fairly good go of staying clean. He wasn't a bad feller, considering, but he'd had absolutely no education to speak of. He attached himself to me; he thought I was a pretty good bloke, for a square-head.
Well, Wayne, the rest of the boys and I came up with a solution to our sundial project, begged and borrowed bits of gear from the workshop, and got down to it. Wayne was good at things like digging holes in the ground; he went at that spade-work like a man on a mission, which gave me pause to wonder exactly what type of holes he'd had occasion to dig in his past.
So we built a fairly nifty little sundial, with a flower bed around it. It looked great, and, to top it off, you could set your watch by it. We were all standing around it, admiring our handiwork, when Wayne said "You know, Laurie, it's a pity I'm getting released in a couple of weeks - I'd like to be around when the equinox comes."
"Bloody hell, Wayne," I replied with some astonishment, "the next thing we're gonna hear about you is you've become head astronomer at the Sydney observatory."
About two years later I was walking through the yard on the way to the education unit, when a voice called out "Hey, Laurie!"
It was Wayne, back again. "Wayne, what are you doing back here? I thought you were on the straight and narrow."
"Well, it's a bit of a said story, Laurie," he said, somewhat sheepishly. We sat down in the sun, and I listened.
I was doin' alright (said Wayne) - livin' with me dad up at Lake Macquarie. But then an old mate came around one day and I had a hit. Well, from there it just went downhill - I was back on the gear like I'd never been off it.
Well, one night I was hangin' out. I had no gear, no money, and I couldn't stand the idea of goin' through a night with the turkey. So I put me balaclava on, got the old man's shotgun out of the wardrobe, and went up to the bottle-o just up the street.
I walked into the joint and stuck the shottie in the face of the owner, and said "This is a stick-up. Hand over all the money."
The bloke just looked at me, and said "Wayne, what the fuck do you think you're doing?"
I ripped off the balaclava and said "How did you know it was me, Terry?"
He said "Wayne, I gave your father that shotgun."