Teachers are human beings. When I was a kid I had no idea. I’ve been travelling back in my mind to my school days a lot lately, replaying interactions teenage me had with certain teachers, and seeing things in a completely different light to how I did back then. I can step into the heads of those old teachers of mine, see where they were coming from. Because I am them now. I’m a teacher. How that happened I do not know, but it did, and it has been my profession on and off for ten years this year. And yea, teachers are human beings. Flawed. Unhinged. And with a beautifully twisted and well articulated sense of humour. That last sentence is open to accusations of writer’s bias. So be it.
I know that teachers are these things not only because I am one, that would be too small a sample section, but because I am also surrounded by them. Most of the things I do I do with teachers. I hang out with teachers, I drink with teachers, I get stoned with teachers, I discuss life with teachers, I argue with teachers, I sleep with teachers, I watch football with teachers, I get my advice from teachers. The woman currently the object of my attentions is a teacher. I even have a teacher for a flatmate. My living-room has a massive whiteboard on the wall and a fold-up table used solely for giving evening lessons. My living-room is a classroom with settees and a telly, for fuck’s sake! So I feel I am qualified to speak about teachers.
I was, for want of a better word, a challenge to my teachers. A pain in the arse. Although they must have liked my company, because they chose on an almost daily basis to spend an extra hour (sometimes two) of their time with me after the final bell had rung for the day, in detention. Man, in the winter I rarely got home before dark. And I only lived up the road. Detention. How is that allowed?
I turn to the pages reserved for portrait photos of all of the school’s teachers. There are 83. Coincidentally the year of my birth. 46 are women, 37 are men. It’s a pointless, juvenile and sexist thing to do, but I do it anyway; I go through each of the 46 female teachers, counting the ones that I would sleep with now if they appeared exactly as they did then. Five. Two taught foreign languages. At school I never saw them as anything other than stuffy, boring women who I imagined had no life outside of the school. Nothing attractive about them. Now though, through my 30-year old eyes, they look alright. And interesting. Like they’ve got more to talk about than the process of conjugating irregular verbs. And we could chat in different languages if I met them today. About life. But back then I was more concerned with drawing Hitler moustaches on every face in the course book. Brilliant.
Also in the list of five is my Year 8 form tutor. She taught drama and food tech. All us boys knew she was hot, even then, but she was also extremely annoying. Always bollocking me for something insignificant. And in a pretentious voice. But she did look good. Probably the most attractive of all our teachers and the one we all fancied was the English teacher with the Italian name. Her reputation was tarnished though, at least outwardly, among all the boys, when it was discovered that she didn’t regularly shave her armpits. Never bothered me one little bit though. And wouldn’t now either. The fifth teacher I don’t remember what she taught or anything about her. I was never in one of her classes.
A couple of weeks ago my mum gave me something I had totally forgotten she’d kept. Something I had totally forgotten even existed. My school yearbook from 1996-97, the year I started secondary school. I was 13. I spent the next week or so taking a trip down memory lane each night, hours and hours of reminiscing. Whilst smoking a lot of weed. And writing down whatever memories and thoughts were conjured up in my mind by the pictures. Here’s some of the shit I wrote in the notebook:
Sitting in the front row of her class photo is the first girl I ever fell in love with. I remember when she moved to our school. I was 11. She was 12. An older woman. Way out of my league. Was never interested. But we would walk home from school together sometimes. She lived round the corner on the estate. Either in the grey block of flats or the house opposite it. I can’t remember exactly. I used to see her knocking about with boyfriends older than me. Hated it. Until I just looked at this picture I hadn’t seen her face in about fifteen years. I remember vividly her South African accent. Strong it was. At first, anyway.
I’m pretty sure that girl, my first love, ha! settled down almost straight after finishing school and started a family. I seem to recall seeing her pushing a pram. That first child she had can’t be too far off the age that we are in these photos. Man, time just disappears. Blink. Gone.
On page 54 there’s the kid who I had my first fight of secondary school with. And who I continued to fight with about once every three months in the middle of the field at lunch time for the next few years. “Fight! Fight! Fight!” The whole school’s formed a circle around the action. Better fight like you mean it! In about our third tear-up that kid gave me my first ever pummelling. He was in the year above, but for our first two fights he was near enough the same size as me. Then he had a growth spurt. I could be heard gulping, cartoon style. Fight three toughened me up for fight four, though, so it wasn’t a bad thing. We were sworn enemies for three years, constantly throwing punches at each other. It must have been over something fucking important. Must’ve been, right? Yea. One day a mate of mine threw an apple core in the direction of his group of mates on the field at lunchtime. It hit him in the head. He mistakenly took me for the culprit. He shoved me. Then he shoved me again. I threw a punch. In my mind that would be the end of it. He’d go down like a sack of spuds. Like on the telly. But my mind overestimated my power. He punched me back. We exchanged blows. He threw a lot more than me but didn’t land a single one. By that time I was into my third year of Korean martial art Tang Soo Do. Fuck yea! Who’s laughing?? I was a blocking machine! Wax on, wax off. Too busy blocking to remember to throw many, though. The kids in my year shouted for me. The kids in his year shouted for him. Two teachers dragged us by our collars inside. Detention after school.