Skip to main content

I'm too smart to be a doctor

SOME traffic cops refer to hazard warning lights as "park anywhere lights". Many motorists seem to think they can stop wherever they want with impunity as long as they display synchronised orange flashers at each corner of their vehicles.

In central Scotland, especially towards the west, we have a verbal equivalent. It is the phrase "nae offence". These words, it seems, give the speaker cart blanche to utter statements that are insulting, crassly insensitive or prejudiced, all without fear of reproach. "See they new specs o' yours, Mr Steele? They make you look like a total mad professor, nae offence."

"Nae offence, but ah wid nevvur go oot wi' a baldy man, even when ah'm older."

I have, of course, been directly and deliberately insulted during my teaching career. There was a time when a colleague and I would exchange greetings thus: "Hello Arse!", "Hi Dick!" - having been called these things by a couple of our charges on the same uncharacteristically bleak day. This was our way of "not letting it get to us".

You can get to me, though, as someone managed, quite unintentionally, to do in a bar in Carluke a few years ago. She was a girl I hadn't seen since primary. "What are you doing now?" she asked. When I told her she said:

"You seemed that brainy at the primary, we all thought you'd be a doctor."

I tell you, the glass of Irn-Bru all but shattered in my hand.

Now don't get me wrong. I have many reasons to be grateful to the medical profession, but the idea that I've underachieved by being a teacher makes me want to swear long and loud. My perception of the medical courses at university, gained from the experiences of friends, is that they require a ferocious dedication to rote learning. The fact that most doctors are brainy beyond that simple skill has more to do with the ludicrously high entrance requirements.

At the end of S2, bright pupils are beginning to think: "I'm quite clever. I should be a doctor" - because that's what clever people do. Never mind that they have the interpersonal skills of a particularly anti-social Dalek.

I can't speak for the medical profession, but I do know that the training colleges set more store on personality these days. Having said that, the respective numbers applying make it harder to get a place as a biologist than as a physicist. Perhaps there are too many failed wannabe doctors applying to teach biology, nae offence.

Gregor Steele was advised at primary school to become a doctor on account of his appalling writing.

Log in or register for FREE to continue reading.

It only takes a moment and you'll get access to more news, plus courses, jobs and teaching resources tailored to you