Teachers can realise their own dreams too

29th August 2008 at 01:00

"Crispy" Smith, my maths teacher back in the late 1960s, is probably entirely responsible for the fact that I can't do quadratic equations. Luckily, I've survived without them. I doubt Crispy would have survived an Ofsted though. He would be facing capability procedures by now. Either that or working for the advisory service.

This is sad, because although he might never have been graded outstanding, Crispy was an inspiration to me. Why? Because he had hair like Robert Plant in his Led Zeppelin days, a flowing academic gown and groovy winkle- pickers. I know he wore groovy winkle-pickers because he spent most lessons with his feet up on his desk making inspiring noises with his violin.

When I languished in numerical darkness, his etudes would be a light in the gloom. When I was lost in an algebraic wilderness, his capriccios would beat a joyful path to the next period. When I was half asleep, he would stop in mid-cadenza, throw his resin at me and say, "Hey, Eddison, wake up!" He had talent, did Crispy - well, if he didn't it wasn't for lack of practice - and spent much of his directed time dreaming of playing in a packed Albert Hall. He never realised his dream because he was a teacher. It was his job to realise the dreams and talents of others. He just didn't take his own seriously enough. Such is the teacher's lot. Or is it?

A classroom monologue I wrote for Teachers TV - Locked Stockroom and Two Smoking Gerbils - recently won a Royal Television Society educational award. It was nominated in the adult training category. Because the story is a light-hearted look at policy development in primary school and its impact on acts of vandalism, sadism, arson, mindless violence and murder, the connection was not immediately obvious. Which adults were being trained and, more worryingly, what were they being trained for?

After the ceremony, I shared this concern with a member of the production team. She smiled sympathetically and told me I should celebrate my success as a writer, not as a teacher. "Remember, adult education is also about realising the potential of adults like you talented teachers."

I demurred in the modest way smug bastards do. It took me until the next day to appreciate what she meant. Even among close friends and colleagues I can think of a lead soprano with the local operatic society; a retired headteacher who got his first real six-string in the summer of `69 and has lately taken to rocking all over South Yorkshire's nursing homes; a special needs teacher who juggles knives at children's parties; a teaching assistant who pole dances; and a deputy head who, after four pints, can burp the "Alleluia Chorus".

Suddenly my spine tingles. It is like old Crispy is playing it vibrato.

In my head I am already excitedly pitching my programme idea to the executives at Teacher's TV . I'm A Talented Teacher, Get Me Out Of Here!

Steve Eddison, Key stage 2 teacher, Sheffield.

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