One of my more spurious reasons for getting into teaching was the vain hope that it would keep me young. The misguided logic ran that mixing with teenagers would bring about a reciprocal exchange of knowledge, whereby I’d teach them about Propp’s character types and they’d teach me what was ‘top of the pops’ – a phrase that readily distils the futility of my quest for agelessness!
Things weren’t looking good during my NQT year when I visited the GP suffering from heart palpitations. Whilst this symptom might be pleasantly experienced by an adolescent in the first flushes of romantic love, the pain in my chest wasn’t reminiscent of anything I felt as a thirteen-year-old sitting opposite Katy Mansfield in Maths. The doctor put it down to stress, and we all know that stress is not the friend of a fresh-faced complexion. On the plus side, working in an East London comp, I was introduced to the mixtapes of Nicki Minaj and Drake some time before they bothered the upper reaches of the charts and the consciousness of the general public. As my potential street cred went up, my life expectancy went down.
A move to rural Cheshire was supposed to bring about a change of pace. I also wrongly figured that I could cash in the cultural currency I’d reaped from working in the ghetto; kids in a sedate farming community would look past my quickly receding hairline if I could wow them with my working knowledge of Newham’s grime scene. Basically, I was ready to live off the past in a sedate semi-retirement home before I’d even hit mid-thirties.
Unfortunately, I’d failed to learn from a half-decade working amongst pubescents (as well as my own years of actually being one, although that now seemed a lifetime ago) that fashions move fast and thumb their nose at what’s gone before…
“No, sir, I’ve never heard of Wiley and have no idea what his lyrics might have to do with Shakespeare’s verse. Can you dab?”
“Can I what?”
Reader, I’m ashamed to report that I didn’t know what a ‘dab’ was, and even more ashamed to admit that I duly found out and did it. However, I’m also pleased to report that by the time ‘flossing’ became a thing, my desire to be down with the kids in any way, shape or form had been consigned to the past.
“Sir, do you know how to floss?”
“Yes, the dentist showed me in 1989 and I’ve done it every night since. Now get on with writing three PEEL paragraphs on the functioning of patriarchy in Romeo and Juliet.”
Bearing out the old chestnut that with age comes wisdom, I now look to the other end of the spectrum and want to know the secrets of the Peter Pan figures among us who have miraculously reached their sixties still in the game and with all their faculties seemingly intact.
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