School Days… As A Dad

Between you and me, I’m not a massive fan of traditional education. I’ve met too many idiots with degrees in my life who can’t seem to apply what they’ve learned in the real world. Yes, for some, it works and pushes them forward, such as Doctors or Teachers, but a degree in media studies won’t exactly knock ’em bandy when you end up working in an office with all the other grunts out of the local comprehensive.

When I was a kid, only clever people went to university. My aspiration was to earn around £200 a week. Now it seems that every kid ‘needs’ to have the Uni experience (if they can fit it in around the obligatory gap year that they rightly deserve).

I guess it’s because their parents push them, telling them they must have a degree if they want to get on. The teens probably just want to spend three years exploring drink, drugs and sex and getting as far away from their pushy parents as they can.

That said, when I went to school, I was an absolute dickhead. In fact, if I met my 15-year-old self now, I’d probably punch him in the face and kick him up the arse without even saying a word, then walk away shaking my head. Young Craig would soon get over it, benefiting from the cushioning effect of his waffle trousers.

Yes, I was one of those kids who thought he was hilarious at school, especially when being a complete arse to a teacher, showing off for laughs, or simply hiding the fact that I was utterly bored.

Teachers were a bit different back then, of course. The slipper had been banned the year I started Senior School, thank God, but I still remember being made to stand in the corner ar Junior School, aged around eight, balancing the board rubber on my head and having chalk thrown at me if it fell off. One particularly sadistic teacher in my second year used to pull the boys hair at the sides if they did anything naughty and twist it around like pedalling a bike. Fuck me, that hurt. I’ve never come across that one since or, indeed, a man who had quite the same fondness for nine-year-old girls. Ah, the 70s!

Perhaps that’s why I started pushing back as a spotty teenager when I got to senior school. In fact, I think I opted for being a full-on bell-end.

I could be quite disruptive in class, but only with the teachers that showed the slightest chink of weakness. I knew my place with the strict ones, and the ones who knew how to teach in an engaging way.

In the 4th and 5th year I used to terrorise my English teacher (and am often ashamed about it as an adult), a lady who seemed about 100 at the time but only actually died a few years ago. As I can’t remember seeing her on the local news blowing out candles as a 140-year old record breaker in a care home, perhaps she was actually quite a bit younger than I thought at the time.

Once during a class, I kept talking to a friend so she asked me to move my chair as far away from him as possible. Being the hilarious comedian I was, I picked it up, walked out of the classroom, out of the block, across the playground, and set it down on the far side of the tennis courts, praising myself for being the funniest person alive and imagining the class laughing at my comic genius.

About 30-seconds later, I realised I was just an idiot sitting on a chair in a playground, not really knowing what to do next. Less than five minutes later, I walked back into the classroom sheepishly. She quite rightly just ignored me.

So, here I am as a 50-year-old man, being dragged along to my teenage daughter’s school to listen to a talk on a particular education programme. Usually, I manage to evade these things, but her mum is away on holiday, and I wanted to show willing, even though I was in my own sort of hell for 45-minutes.

All schools seem the same; the smells, the tension, the forced compliance. It’s probably even more intense now I’d imagine, with schools having an extra emphasis on being kind to one another. I guess that must make bullying a little more complicated, but at least the kids have got the internet to do that kind of thing these days.

Now, here is why I haven’t liked doing the whole school thing with any of my children as an adult.

The first teacher I met was a woman who, like my English teacher in 1986, could be 100, could be 50; it was hard to tell. But if she had less than five cats at home, I’d be surprised.

The male teacher: Well, he looked around 19, proud in his first-ever suit, which had an 80s-style shimmer to it and was slightly too big, leaving him looking a bit like Tom Hanks in Big when he changes back into a boy. His fluffy half-beard covering random bits of his face didn’t help him look much older either, and I was surprised to find out he was 27. Perhaps female teachers always look older, and the men always look younger?

I did everything I could to not look as though I’d rather be somewhere else. My daughter’s bright, so she kept thanking me for being there. She knew I was struggling but I battled on. I didn’t even wince when the young male teacher used the phrase “super-duper-duper”.

And, it’s not just the teachers I struggle with, oh no. It’s some of the other parents. There’s always one or two asking stupid questions trying to catch the speakers out, not content with their day’s work of getting a five-letter word on Countdown earlier in the afternoon. I just did the fella-nod to the other dads I saw in the same predicament as me, the casual nod where your head moves about 2-5mm down and then up and no eye-contact.

But here’s the thing. As much as I mock teachers, the truth is, they were really putting themselves out for the children. These teachers put in a lot of their own time to help the kids. Why? I’m not quite sure. If any of them were like the silly little 13-year-old girls in front of me talking and giggling the whole time through the talk, winding me right up, or like me when I was a know-it-all little shit of a teenager, I’m not sure I’d even bother.

They say that youth is wasted on the young. By ‘they’, I mean old people. But that’s the whole point of being young, right. Finding yourself, seeing how far you can push things, being confused halfway between being a child and an adult. Teachers take the brunt of it. I’m not sure I could do it – the workload and the constant need to be enthusiastic to an unenthusiastic audience.

But, and I don’t think saying this makes me Arthur Scargill, I’m also not sure why teachers don’t get paid twice as much as they do for the impact they have on the next generation.

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