I was thrown back into my school days recently by an email. When I stayed with Mummy Barrow the night before we flew to Ghana we realised Daddy Barrow’s mum had worked at my secondary school. After Ghana she mailed me to say she had remembered me to my old headteacher, at which point I panicked slightly. I still care, after 17 years what he thinks of me, and I have good reason to worry.
99% of the time I was a very good student, incredibly well behaved and enthusiastic. I loved English, Drama and anything that allowed me to express myself and form opinions.
It was interesting to hear my headteacher remembered me as ‘sparky’. A diplomatic description. I was academically ‘sparky’ and left with great results. I was dramatically ‘sparky’ and loved school drama productions. But ‘sparky’ also neatly encapsulates the PR disaster I unleashed on the school when I had my nose pierced. To be fair to the school, I was suspended for swearing at a member of staff, not for having my nose pierced, although the argument was over the nose ring.
It all got very ugly and snowballed. The rest of the sixth form held a sit in and the local paper and Manchester Evening News got wind of it. Having since worked as a teacher I appreciate the enormity of that in PR terms.
So I want to thank all my teachers for their patience, inspiration and encouragement. I particularly want to thank them for putting up with my experimentation with boundaries, for fire fighting the sparks I ignited. Along with my A level results, those experiments have been an excellent grounding for life beyond school.
It was very sad to hear some of my teachers had passed away. As a child you see teachers as resources, part of the furniture, not as humans, you certainly don’t imagine them ageing. When I became a teacher I became convinced my students thought we got put back in the cupboard at the end of the day with the text books. I heard this week of some very sad losses for the profession.
I’m sorry it’s too late to say sorry in some cases. I am sorry for being an absolute pain, for bunking off Science to sit in the woods, for speeding on the sewing machine in Textiles class, for dropping A level German for Sociology (after the timetable was rearranged just for me) and for not paying more attention in Maths, even though I had an excellent teacher who kept me motivated with praise and witty banter. For swearing. For causing havoc. But thank you for letting me experiment.
I think it is really poor looking back that I didn’t see Maths as cool and chose to fall behind. Despite my teacher’s wit, praise and encouragement, despite the projects he designed around a bedroom redesign to try and make maths fun. There was a silver lining, my parents got me a tutor, the basics had clearly been firmly planted at school, and I soon caught up.