Pupils I'll never forget

4th June 2004 at 01:00
Malcolm Craddock remembers an old boy who's now one of the boys

"Watch Watson! He's stroppy." October 1970: the first day of my first teaching job. Reaching into my pigeonhole I found potted summaries of all the members of 4X at the Royal Grammar School, High Wycombe. They had been left for me by the pregnant incumbent of the post I was to fill. It was meant to be helpful, but I didn't want to see these kids through someone else's eyes. The glory of pre-national curriculum days was the opportunity to find your own ways, methods and content. (Mind you, at the parents'

evening later that year I had to sit behind a sign that read "Mrs McVey"!) And 4X were a pure joy. They inspired me, challenged me, and soaked up everything I could throw at them. Music, art, dance, anthropology, books, popular culture: they lapped everything up. There was Edwards, who had a maturity of intelligence beyond his 14 years; Stevens, enthusiastic and excitable; Butler, with a neat line in supercilious wit; Ross, whose love of literature always swamped his wish to be a romantic rebel; and Watson, whose star turn was the cynical mot juste muttered from beneath his fringe in the corner at the back of the room. I have since taught eight to 80-year-olds, middle school to postgraduate, in England, Scotland and Jamaica, but this group was the Rolls Royce. The only difference was we never seemed to hear our clock ticking.

About 10 years ago I was at a conference in Liverpool. As I listened to the head of the adult education service open the conference, I mentally sketched in a bit more hair, and suddenly there he was: Steve Edwards, from 4X. I introduced myself. We were both now in our forties, and had melded into the same generation. He gasped: "It's Mr Craddock!" Over lunch he told everyone about the fun we had that year. I am doing some work in a Merseyside authority at the moment; I must try to track Steve down again.

Malcolm Craddock left the Royal Grammar School to teach in universities then moved into educational administration. He was for 15 years assistant director, and acting director of education in Sunderland, where he still lives. Do you have special memories of unforgettable pupils? Write to Sarah Bayliss at the address on page 3 or email sarah. bayliss@tes.co.uk

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