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The short back and sides of teaching

My mistake, I now realise, was to allow myself to be lured away from the usual topics: where I was going on my holidays and what I did at the weekend. That was how I discovered that the real taboo subject among hairdressers is not politics or religion but education.

"What is it you said you do for a living Steve?" Jed asked.

"I'm a teacher. In a college."

"Oh, nice one Steve!" He snipped enthusiastically in the vicinity of my right ear. "Did I ever tell you that I did my training in a college?" "Only once or twice Jed. In passing."

"Day-release it was. Few years back now, but I still remember it like it was yesterday. And do you know what Steve?" "What Jed?" "I reckon I could do that."

"Do what Jed?" "Teach. Yeah, I reckon I could really have a go at that teaching lark."

"You mean teach hairdressing?" "Nah, not that crap." Nice one Jed! I suddenly remembered that this 'crap' was costing me pound;14.25, plus tip. "I've always fancied being an art teacher."

"You don't happen to paint or draw at all do you? In your spare time maybe?" I enquired "Well, not exactly Steve. Not now. I did when I was at school though. And I've always thought that if you really concentrate on something, then you can get good at it."

"Like cutting hair, you mean?" "Oh, nice one Steve. But you see teaching is all about communication."

"Is that so Jed?" "Yeah, of course. And isn't that what I spend every day of my life doing? Talking to the punters. Comm-un-ic-ating! They tell me what they want doing, and I tell them it can't be done. Simple."

Jed, of course, is not alone in his conviction that he knows all about the teaching lark. Maybe it's because they have spent so long on the receiving end, but it's rare to meet anyone these days who can't talk with certainty about where the proession is going wrong. And they can't all be Daily Mail editorial writers can they?

I, on the other hand, have spent many hours in the barber's chair, but wouldn't for a minute presume to advise Jed on how to shape a mullet. Nevertheless, Jed spent another five minutes telling me in more detail how I should be doing my job. Then, out of nowhere, came another question:

"Tell me Steve, tell me honestly, what did Jesus think about the Jews?" "Well that's difficult to say Jed," I said. "You see, Jesus was Jewish."

"Oh, nice one Steve." He looked as if he wasn't quite sure if I was telling him the truth. He clearly saw me as both an authority and an idiot, the way people do with teachers.

"Now you tell me," I asked, "what exactly has this got to do with teaching?" Jed tapped his nose meaningfully. "Background knowledge Steve. You need that in teaching don't you?" "Oh yes Jed, you do." I might have added how particlularly useful he would find religious trivia when teaching stroppy teenagers how to draw.

"While we're on the subject Steve, were the Dark Ages mentioned in the Bible?" "No Jed, as a matter of fact they weren't."

"Why not Steve?" "Well, Jed, when the Bible was written they hadn't happened yet." "Oh, yeah, of course." He didn't sound convinced. "It's called chronology Jed. One thing happens and then, a bit later, another one. Think of it like a great cosmic appointments book."

"Oh yeah, nice one Steve." He gave me a lightning glimpse of the back of my head with the hand mirror. "All right for you is it?" "Perfect Jed. As always. But tell me, when you were at college didn't you have any general studies lessons?" I handed him my pound;14.25. Plus tip.

"Oh yeah, all the time. But we used to go down the pub then."

"Is that so Jed? You surprise me."

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