Review of 2008 - Scandals deep, ambitions high

19th December 2008 at 00:00
It was the year that teachers got stuck into everything, from the Olympics to reality TV - and with a fair degree of success

They sang. They danced. They told jokes. They competed at the Olympics. They helped change the course of political history. And they won Big Brother.

In fact, like pedagogical versions of Forrest Gump, they continually reappeared at significant moments throughout the year. If all the world's a stage, teachers were major players this year.

The curtain was lifted in February, when drama teacher Ashley Russell made her entrance as one of the 12 finalists in the search-for-a-star reality TV programme I'd Do Anything. The 24-year-old considered herself a potential Nancy in Lord Lloyd Webber's production of Oliver!, until the good lord closed every door to her.

But where the Lord closes a door, somewhere he opens a window. For Rachel Rice, a trainee teacher from south Wales, her 15-minute window of fame opened in June. The 24-year-old took sick-leave from her English and drama placement at Caerleon comprehensive four weeks before the end of term, only to reappear - mysteriously recovered - in the Big Brother house. The gamble paid off: Ms Rice went on to win the competition and its Pounds 100,000 prize.

In fact, despite the education profession's condemnation of the Government's target culture, winning was the single-minded focus of several teachers this year.

While their colleagues waited for this year's A-level results, three PE teachers travelled to Beijing in search of a different type of gold standard. Michaela Breeze, Alistair McGregor and Tandi Gerrard spent their summer holidays respectively lifting weights, playing hockey and diving at the Olympics.

They were joined by Hester Goodsell, an East Anglian music teacher, who rowed in the women's lightweight double-scull pairing.

Meanwhile, Will Glover's extra-curricular activities were similarly followed around the world. The head of economics at St George's College in Surrey spent autumn half-term working as a consultant for Barack Obama's presidential campaign.

Mr Glover knocked on doors in New York state and Pennsylvania, drumming up support for the candidate who made history by becoming the first black president-elect.

Linda Walker, however, was more concerned with recording her own history. The cookery teacher was jailed for 36 days in 2005, after firing an air-gun at the teenagers who vandalised her home.

This summer, she published her own autobiography, Yobs on the Doorstep, notable particularly for her description of firing the gun while wearing diamante flip-flops.

Such comic incongruities of real life were similarly recorded by Gareth Calway. The former English teacher drew on a 27-year career in education for his novel, River Deep Mountain High. He claims that many of the characters - such as the two teachers who do not speak for 10 years after a disagreement over a borrowed chair - are based on erstwhile colleagues.

But teachers seeking to be remembered in perpetuity need not resort either to deshabille gun-wielding or impressing colleagues with their eccentricities. A tribute website launched this autumn offers teachers a completely new version of online fame. Unfortunately, in order for participants to appear on Great Teachers Remembered, an online mausoleum, they must already be dead.

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