IT has been suggested that teaching as a career is like working in the research and development department without ever seeing the finished product. We may occasion-ally receive news of former pupils but, by and large, once they have left school, their further development remains a mystery.
Last week I blundered on to the Friends Reunited website. I've never been sure whether I was entirely comfortable with the idea of this popular site, wondering if the proverbial references to sleeping dogs and curious cats were an appropriate response. However, buoyed up by the thought that at least it had to be better than actually meeting in the flesh after a couple of decades, I nervously entered my school and university details and cautiously clicked my way into update land.
It was a bit like standing again in the playground or outside a lecture hall: there were the familiar faces, the vaguely recognised and the names only remembered from lists on noticeboards or as names on halls of residence doors.
The information they gave varied too. Some gave none, others limited themselves to terse facts, while some completed long and personality packed accounts of the past 30 years or so. Inevitably you wondered about the reasons for these variations and also why some had registered and others hadn't.
Again, in accordance with my limited IT abilities, I somehow found myself logged on to the lists from the school where I spent the first 16 years of my teaching career. I hadn't thought of using the site in this manner, but spotting the appropriate year for my first ever guidance group and seeing that around 60 per cent of them were listed, curiosity overcame me and I started clicking furiously.
It was a revelation - first in terms of how many faces came sharply back into focus. Some of their career paths were conventional, others were anything but. In some cases I felt I could have written the script when they were in S2, but a few had shot off at completely unpredictable tangents.
In the end, it didn't matter; there was a sense of completion in knowing how they had got on, and confirming they still existed. These thirtysomethings had once been united as a year group, in quite an arbitrary manner; some had chosen to keep in touch with others, some were hemispheres away, in geography or progress, and others had simply disappeared.
One part of the site I studiously avoided: memories of teachers. Apparently that section is quite difficult to read through rose-tinted spectacles ...