Arnold's world

3rd July 1998 at 01:00
People are always asking me (well, one person asked me once, actually) whether I find writing a weekly column easier than being a teacher, which is what I used to try to be a long time ago. There is no comparison: this writing lark, to be perfectly honest, is an absolute doddle. All you have to do is choose an item in the news - almost any one will do - and make enough snide comments about it to fill your allotted space. Then sit back, wait for the preposterously large cheque and then find something new to rubbish.

Take, for example, Lord Puttnam's plan to spotlight the nation's best teachers during a television spectacular in which the regional finalists in a range of categories will compete for a prestigious "teacher-of-the-year" award.

It's an original, up-beat and innovative idea - and therefore a sitting target for the columnist eager for easy copy. You might choose to reflect on what might be the ideal format for the programme. Perhaps the contenders sit on high stools behind a screen while Cilla prompts a giggling school child to ask them three fatuous questions. Perhaps the final should be modelled on Stars in Their Eyes: from billowing clouds of dry ice would emerge another made-over Mr Chips or Miss Brodie or Mr Woodhead. Or it could be organised along the lines of Crufts, with beaming governors and headteachers smugly parading their well-behaved pets.

See, it's easy - providing, that is, you can sustain an absolute faith in that comforting credo: things are bad and can only get worse. This shouldn't prove too difficult for most teachers - the nation's gloomiest profession, according to a recent poll.

But my advice is always to be on your guard: you never know when cheerfulness might strike. I am currently suffering the consequences of having foolishly opened Uri Geller's Little Book of Mind-Power (Robson, #163;2.50). Within a quarter-of-an-hour (I read the book twice in that time) I was an optimistic wreck.

I bought it simply to find out how to bend spoons, but was disappointed to find that Uri is strangely silent on the subject. He has bigger fish to fry. He wants to do nothing less than convince you that the chances of succeeding at any task you undertake depend entirely on the frame of mind in which you approach it. Or as Henry Ford says: "Whether you think you can, or think you can't - you are right. " It isn't only Henry Ford who chips in a quote or two. Uri has contributions from what must be the All-Time World XI of positive thinkers. How about this for a line-up? Einstein, Goethe, Shaw, Mandela, Christ, Gandhi (Capt), Michelangelo, Shakespeare, Nietzsche, Churchill and plucky little Kierkegaard.

They all generally agree that the best strategy for getting the most out of life is to aim impossibly high, keep congratulating yourself on how well you are doing and never miss the opportunity to blow your own trumpet.Indeed, if you are a teacher and you read Uri's Little Book of Mind-Power,you might well begin to believe, not only that Lord Puttnam's television programme is a good idea, but also that you have what it takes to walk off with the top prize. Of course, not everyone can be a winner. But even if you do end up with the wooden spoon, there's still plenty you could do. You could try to bend it. Or cut your losses and become a columnist.

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