No suit required: the only incentive;Opinion

19th June 1998 at 01:00
I wouldn't go so far as to say my dad was Mr Chips but teaching was a much more self-effacing profession when he entered it. Back in 1947 David Puttnam wasn't supporting a call for annual televised teacher awards and it was possible to go to the cinema without Jeremy Paxman popping up to tell you that he owes it all to Miss Lupin, the legendary needlework mistress of Malvern College.

And a good thing too in my opinion. We see enough of Wogan and Ulrika without having them read out the nominations for Sarcastic Geography Teacher of the Year Award or Games Master Who Fancies Himself Most.

As for the Teacher Training Agency's cinema campaign, I can't help feeling sorry for some of those who've been "outed'' in this way. Pity poor Eric Anderson, now headmaster at Eton, who was just settling down to watch Titanic at his local multiplex when suddenly he hears his name called from the screen by this big grinning guy in shirt-sleeves. Spluttering popcorn everywhere, Eric suddenly realises that's why the prime minister has always looked a touch familiar. It's "Bogroll Blair'' the leader of that gang who pushed his head down the boys' urinal back in 1965.

Of course Bogroll now remembers the incident quite differently. He probably thinks of Mr Anderson as the master who inspired young Blair with the idea of "consensus'' government but this is my point. The past is past and we should not shine too bright a spotlight on it.

Last year an old teacher of mine contacted me and suggested I cited him as a great influence on my life. This man had done me one unforgettable favour and so I happily wrote an article in the Guardian praising him for his verdict on one of my earliest essays: "Silly, repetitious and at times very, very boring.'' It brought me up with a shock, did that. Suddenly the child I was realised that I couldn't pull the wool over everyone's eyes forever. But he was quite hurt: "Adrian, I would never say a thing like that.'' Fame is a two-edged sword that never cuts the way you expect. Personally I think teachers should eschew it and stick to the traditional reasons that inspired my father to this great vocation: long holidays, a captive audience to laugh at your jokes and no requirement to wear a suit. Not even at the awards ceremony.

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