Why must teachers be so ordinary?
"Do you know," said one of my students, apropos of absolutely nothing at all, "I feel really disillusioned." As I had just handed back her essay, I wondered if I was the cause. And, in a way, it turned out that I was.
But it wasn't just me. It was the whole teaching profession that had conspired to remove the rosy tint from her contact lenses.
"Several of my friends," she confided, "have become teachers recently . ".
"Is that so bad?" I asked.
"No," she said, just a shade too quickly. "It's just that they're so ordinary, you know? Like ordinary people."
"But isn't that exactly what teachers are?" I said. "Ordinary people who just happen to have taken up teaching for a living - except, of course, that they spend more time in charity shops and look a bit more haggard than the rest of the population."
"I'm beginning to see that," she said. "But all through my school life I somehow saw teachers as different. When I was at primary school, I thought they just got into the cupboard at night and climbed back out in the morning.
"Then when I went on to secondary school, I knew they must have homes and families like other people, but I never could think of them as being, you know . just like everyone else.
"And here at college there's still a distance between the teachers and us, even with the matey ones.
"Then my friends started to finish their training and go on to work in schools and suddenly I saw it: they were just like the rest of us, you know? People who like going out for the evening and getting drunk like us."
Thinking I had better distance myself from this test of "ordinariness", I told her that I very occasionally passed lighted doorways from which a sour stench and the sound of laughter emanated, which I assumed were public houses.
"Are you taking the piss or what?" was her instant response.
So maybe I was. But I didn't like to tell her that perhaps it was because they were teachers that they felt the need to get plastered every night.