I’m sure you have all heard the great and good droning on via various mediums at one time or other about how a certain teacher influenced them and had been an important brick in the building of their life’s wall of success. Bono siting his humility teacher or Richard Dawkins praising his divinity lecturer or Elon Musk giving thanks to his how to call someone a pedo (sic) without justification mentor; you know the kind of thing I mean. Well, another dewy-eyed, sycophantic, arse-kissing session was on the radio again the other day and it got me to thinking about my education and the teachers who I studied under…or should that be ‘under whom I studied’? As you can maybe guess by the last unconfident sentence structure this is not going to be a wholly positive rant and some may not emerge at the end covered in praise and adulation.
My education started in approximately 1970, maybe a little earlier if you count nursery time served etc., and carried on until the summer of 1983 when I left school as fast as my little legs would carry me, which wasn’t that fast as I was running backwards and throwing two-handed ‘V’s at the building that held me hostage for so long. My time there was semi-productive but I was never a (horrible Americanism warning) ‘straight A student’; some contemporary inmates did far better, others did far worse. To be honest I had a middling start, doing okay, but as time passed and I grew bored and the work grew harder achievements tailed off until I finished up, like many I suspect, semi-educated at best. I knew bits about various stuff but not a lot about one specialism, a foundation to build on was lacking. (This sounds like one of my old school reports which were nearly always a joy to share with my parents…if a freak bushfire didn’t engulf the document on the way back from school.) Cursory summary of my education over.
Due to the aforementioned broadcast I started to wonder if any of my teachers had been an influence on me and I found the first problem I had was easily recalling any of the buggers, it was like my mind was trying to keep me safe from PTSD, but eventually, they started to come. Out of the shadows of my past they rose like mist-monsters from a black and white RKO horror flick from the 1940s, gnashing their teeth, clanking their chains and wailing like the west wind had just been kicked in the bollocks. They reeked of booze and tobacco, or both, and their faces were twisted with bitterness, sarcasm and contempt; it was horrific…like being dragged backwards through a wormhole and shoved behind a desk once more, except now all the teachers I could remember were circling me in a shuffling procession each taking a turn to mock my failure to be able capture perspective in my art assignment or comprehend simultaneous equations (still can’t) or remember how a plant coverts sunlight into golf balls or something.
With all these spectres from the past – some of whom could well be ghosts for real by now considering they were at least 200 years old when I was a kid – I began to take stock of what, if any, influence they had had on me in the past…or present as it was then. There were instances that stuck out, like the PE teacher who was rather fond of ‘slippering’ boys who got out of line and really enjoyed playing rugby with the class, the muddier the field the better. The history teacher who, now I have more experience of such things, was always leathered to the point of collapse to get through the day. A physics teacher who was so ineffectual at crowd control that even the top set class full of timid swots would set fire to their desks and try to electrocute each other at every opportunity. A geography teacher who had a religious leaning (can’t remember which way but it wasn’t anything as cool as Satanism or Pastafarianism) and did her damnedest to convert anyone foolish enough to fall under her spell. The list of teachers who bugged me was getting ever bigger and not one had come through as a mentor or inspiring at all.
Many musos asked this same question quote their music teacher as the springboard for their fame; my music teacher appeared to be a neurotic always on the edge of tears who was not let near any sharp stuff for fear of negative headlines for the school. One of my art teachers was shagging another of my art teachers, usually in the dinnertime and in the pottery room which had remarkably unsound-proofed walls and the bestial grunting could put you off a covert ciggy. One of the dirty duo was an older bloke, the other a relatively young woman and so when I saw the potter’s wheel scene in ‘Ghost’, I had trouble keeping my food down as imaginings of what went on amongst the damp clay between my art teachers would not leave me be. They were no Swayze and Moore, so dash that image from your mind right now…Wallace and Gromit might be closer to the truth.
Throw into the mix things like teachers being sacked for minor fraud, teachers marrying six-formers (quite legal…but still, come on), BO, endless sarcasm, belittling and bullying to name but some of the misdemeanours. As much as I tried I could not come up with a teacher that had inspired me nor given me hope or confidence for my future. One of my mate’s older brothers was actually told by one charmer of a headmaster: ‘As long as you have a hole in your arse, you’ll never amount to anything.’ (Mindfulness was not on our school curriculum or even a word or a real thing back then…I’m not sure it is now, to be honest.) I had drawn a blank. My teachers were gits back then and they remain gits in my eyes to this day.
But I’m a grown up now, all mature and stuff, so I suppose I can accept that I may not have made my teachers’ jobs the easiest on the planet. I was pretty malleable for the first five years of secondary education but come the sixth form (after all the proper rebels had left school and an opening in the school’s social strata became apparent) I kinda came into my own as an arsehole…and have continued to run with it since some might argue. Looking back I can see how I might have had some input in my educational downfall. Napping in class can’t have helped nor could having an aversion to putting the words ‘home’ and ‘work’ together and acting upon them. Gobbing-off out of turn, arguing the toss about everything, turning up late and ill-prepared for the day, plus many other minor/major misdemeanours that I won’t go into here could be why I was said to be ‘… a Che Guevara wannabe…’ in one school report. I thought that was pretty cool at the time…and I still do if I’m being honest.
What we appear to have is half-a-dozen of one and six of the other (with the teachers’ ‘half-a-dozen’ consisting of at least 52 parts of the blame out of 55) but I still remain without an inspirational teacher. Maybe some tried but I wasn’t paying attention, looking out of the window and dreaming of motorbikes. I do have a few people that inspire/have inspired me but none of them are school teachers so whenever the questionnaire eventually comes round to me, once I’ve made it big in this world for doing…something or other, I will have to leave that box blank.
Which brings me to you. I know for a fact I write these rants and I know a few of you ‘like’ them with the old thumbs up but that still leaves me wondering if these rants are getting read? (I’m as guilty as the next of liking stuff without justification, a full-on kettle and pot situation here.) In the comments below I insist you leave note of a teacher who inspired you (to make me look foolish, which isn’t hard so don’t be too impressed with yourself) or one who truly made your school life a misery. No need for real names (nicknames are fine) just a subject and an example will do. ‘Mr Dick’ead, a physics teacher, who hit me with a spanner every time I got one of the laws of mechanics wrong. Now I have a fear of getting my car serviced.’ Or ‘Miss Floweryhose, an art teacher who heaped praise on my lazy-ass, cop-out stencil paintings. Now I am Banksy.’ Simple stuff like that. If you don’t do this homework you must write out ‘I must respond to Sif’s rants’ 1,000 times and worse still you could end up being like me, uninspired and hollow…and maybe a tad bitter and twisted.