First encounters

16th June 2000 at 01:00
Paul Miller never wantsto grow up

It was time I left the real world. I am 50 and a grandfather. I am told I don't look it. Everyone I know of my age is told they don't look my age. Actually, I do. We do. This is what 50-year-olds look like. What is usually meant is that we don't act our age and this is because we were educated in the Sixties.

It's not that Sixties education swung that much - it didn't. It's that we are Baby Boomers. There are so many of us that we had to struggle to be noticed. First up gets the best shoes, first to the table gets the biggest breakfast. We talked tosh and argued over everything in order to elbow our way to the front. We never matured. Men of my age don't shake hands, like grown-ups of 30 do, and women of my age don't hug each other or dress like Audrey Hepburn. We act like kids.

As well as being 50, I am an NQT. I don't know which I find the more surprising. I certainly never expected to be either. Since I fail to be most people's version of a 50-year old, I have made a sincere effort to look like a teacher. At first, I was disappointed to find that this no longer involves dressing like Dracula. However, having identified one's subject (English), it was fairly easy to identify the stereotypical dress code. I cut off the pony tail and went to a High Street charity shop where I bought a corduroy jacket, dark slacks and brogues. I tumble-dried creases into my slacks and poured gravy on the lapels on my jacket. While that was drying, I bought five checked shirts and one woollen tie.

Thus, I turned to a profession that, according to the propaganda, actually wants middle-aged men. I teach children androgynousy named Sam who are the children of yobbos with names like Lance and Shane, Sherry and Michelle. And, as one of the grandparent generation, the one to which the child generation purportedly relates, and as an irresponsible hippy dude, I expect to relate to my pupils.

And I do relate to them. I, too, fail to understand how a pupil's education will benefit from having his or her shirt tucked in. I, too, wonder how 30-year-olds can have become so alienated from the people they are teaching.

Did they really not have access to marijuana or pudenda (either their own or somebody else's) in 1985? Shouldn't they perhaps offer a passing glance to the inside pages of Sugar or J-17?

I stand in the assembly hall and listen to Year 11s being harangued for not working hard enough towards their GCSEs. Teachers tell them that by getting their GCSEs they will be able, in a few years, to "drive around in smart cars", and have "loads of cash". Parental values.

It is entirely possible that many teachers have never been out of a school, of one type or another, since they were shunted through the portals of their infant school. This does not prevent them from alerting pupils of the dangers "in store" for them "in the real world". My experience of the "real" world is that you can behave "like that". You can miss deadlines, let people down, wear trainers and rely on others to "clear up the mess after you".

Adults in the real world do it all the time.

Paul Miller is an NQT at Passmores comprehensive, Epping, Essex. Before completing his PGCE, he was a freelance designer and scenic artist, and was head of design for several regional theatres


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