Our school is truly comprehensive, but in the top set we have many children who come from well-educated families and whose parents have high-powered jobs. As a young, inexperienced teacher of geography, I often felt intimidated by their intelligence and experience. One such family had three children who attended our school, all in the top sets, and all just like their father in his quest for knowledge.
On one parents' evening, he came over to speak to me about his youngest daughter. He was a very intense man and I felt that every single thing I said was being analysed, and my competence as a teacher judged. He was interested in his daughter's progress, but he clearly wanted to extend the conversation into a discussion about wider geographical issues. He began telling me about his younger days when, as a student, he had trekked around Mexico.
I began to feel a little uncomfortable, aware that my geographical knowledge of Mexico was very poor. Finally, he began to tell me about his ascent of a Mexican volcano, which he struggled to remember the name of. This annoyed him intensely and he looked at me for help, assuming that a geography teacher would know every Mexican volcano.
At this point, my mind jumped into gear, and wanting to sound knowledgeable about my subject, I announced, "Paricutin?", the only Mexican volcano I knew of. He seemed a little embarrassed and confused by my outburst. Eventually, he replied, "No, I just walked up it."
Realising what he thought I had said, I set of into nervous embarrassed giggles. That will teach me to try to be clever.
The writer is a geography teacher in Preston.