Teaching is the elixir of youth? Pass the cocoa

8th October 2010 at 01:00

They say being a teacher keeps you young, and to someone pushing 50 who says, "Gosh, is that policeman old enough to be out alone?", this could be fantastic news. If only they didn't just mean an inner youthfulness. I could do with outer help; the anti-wrinkle creams and the "give-you-a-fake-waist" vests aren't doing the job they used to.

I will be interested to see just how young teaching can keep us when we don't get our pensions until we are 96. There comes a point, surely, when no matter how many teenagers you meet each day, if you can't hear them, see them or remember their names, the benefits of being kept young at heart are limited.

Still, I'm seeing a money-spinner here, and you can peruse my new website www.resourcesforelderlyeducators.co.uk to pre-order a handy whiteboard pen bag which can hang from your Zimmer frame. I've also designed a range of securely lidded coffee mugs emblazoned: "I may tremble, but, boy, can I still teach". Bound to be a top seller, too, are my smart suits, made in association with Damart from cosy, striped dressing-gown material. They go well with the new "of-course-they're-not-slippers" range of fur-trimmed shoes.

But is it true? Will teaching really keep me young? Or will exposure to teenagers merely, by juxtaposition, emphasise how old and fusty I'm getting?

When I'm trying to teach students the importance of noting which words are juxtaposed and why, I use a practical illustration. I ask for a very short volunteer to stand at the front. (Risky, I know;, however I do stress, "short, but with high self-esteem".) I say to the class, "Is she short? Of course we can see she is short. But what would tell us just how short?" Then I invite a very tall volunteer to stand next to her. "Ah, now we can see how short!"

See? Surely being in a classroom with agile and toned youngsters all day is only going to draw attention to my bingo wings.

It's not only that. Even when I'm proud of my new technology skills, I'm still way behind. This was highlighted by Year 10's amusement when I "discovered" the No Show button on our data projector remote control. I could hide what was on the screen? Eat your heart out, Captain Cook - this was a whole new world. In the end, the class sighed: "Miss, please stop clicking it on and off. You'll give us a migraine."

Also, a recent attempt to enlighten a Year 12 English language class of girls that "bachelorette" was the new term for "spinster" met with polite yawns. They had been using the word for years.

And, if only I could force myself to keep up with teenage culture and read Twilight, I would realise it wasn't just coincidence that all the main characters in Year 7's recent story-writing were called Bella and Edward.

Mind, having said this, when I double-checked the Twilight characters' names with my 19-year-old daughter, she told me, then moaned: "Oh, how I hate myself for knowing that!"

So, maybe it's not just an age thing, after all. OK I feel better. But a nice cup of cocoa will help, too. I'll put the kettle on.

Fran Hill is an English teacher at an independent girls' school in Warwickshire.

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