Kids can teach us how to conduct ourselves

4th December 2009 at 00:00

I wrote here once that I'd renounced The X Factor. Well, that's gone the way of all flesh, like most of my resolutions. I'm a terrible example of disciplined living to any young person.

There was that vow to give up chocolate (made early August, broken mid-August) and I also swore that I'd desist from my teacherish habit of pointing out grammatical errors in restaurant menus (made at 7.45pm, broken by 8.15pm). Then there's that promise to my husband that I won't nag him for the laboured way he peels potatoes (actually, I haven't attempted this at all yet but my therapist says three more sessions should do it).

The problem is, faced with adversity - chocolate cravings, peas spelt "pea's" and three peeled spuds per hour - I have as much sticking power as the 10-year-old envelopes in my desk drawer.

Competing in The X Factor this year were two teenagers: cornfield-haired twins John and Edward. They were soon dubbed "Jedward" in a fab example of a portmanteau word I must shoehorn into a lesson some time. Recently, Jedward were eliminated from the show, but until then they too displayed a level of bloody-mindedness I can only admire from afar. Could they sing? No. Could they play? No. Could they dance? Ha! Considering they were twins, I've not seen anything so uncoordinated since I wore my pink hotpants with a red cheesecloth shirt in 1973.

But could Jedward stick at it, despite being mocked by many? Yes, they damn well could. Despite being only 17, despite the temptation to crack under the pressure, and despite the booing, they bounced back - granted, they did not bounce in time, but at least they bounced. And, in doing so, they showed more strength of character than the four judges put together.

I can't compare myself to X Factor judges. I'm not rich. I'm not famous. And though I'm prettier than Louis Walsh, which isn't saying much, I am to Cheryl Cole what the rhinoceros is to the flamingo. But we do have something in common. The teenagers we work with often show us up. All four judges behave poorly sometimes and the fact that their in-fighting and personal attacks on contestants are probably for the camera don't make these any more acceptable.

Weeks back, Cowell had the chance to send tuneless Jedward home and retain Lucie Jones, a talented young singer. He bottled out, left it to the fickle public's vote and Lucie made a tearful but gracious exit from a competition that is meant to be about singing. Cowell reneged on previous criticism about Jedward's performances in a spineless, profit-led decision.

In another event, hundreds of pupils comprising the UK Youth Parliament were recently allowed, historically, into the House of Commons for some debates. Widely reported was how their dignity contrasted with the often childish behaviour of Parliament's usual occupants.

From the Youth Parliament to youth performers, they've all shown qualities which many adults, including me, could learn from. But I don't.

"OK, hubby, put that potato down - it's midnight and we need to discuss your peeling technique."

Fran Hill, English teacher, independent girls' school, Warwickshire.

Log-in as an existing print or digital subscriber

Forgotten your subscriber ID?


To access this content and the full TES archive, subscribe now.

View subscriber offers


Get TES online and delivered to your door – for less than the price of a coffee

Save 33% off the cover price with this great subscription offer. Every copy delivered to your door by first-class post, plus full access to TES online and the TES app for just £1.90 per week.
Subscribers also enjoy a range of fantastic offers and benefits worth over £270:

  • Discounts off TES Institute courses
  • Access over 200,000 articles in the TES online archive
  • Free Tastecard membership worth £79.99
  • Discounts with Zipcar,, Virgin Wines and other partners
Order your low-cost subscription today