You might find this hard to believe, but I wasn’t a model student in my schooldays.
I know, right?
But you know how it is. You grow up, you move away, you have a child of your own – and it’s easy to forget about school, really, isn’t it? Because who cares? Ancient history.
Except for when you’re me, and karma hates you. Because one of Flea’s new teachers? Is a woman who was my teacher for 5 years, and my form teacher for two of those years.
At the moment, I’m mostly hiding in the car at school, in case the teacher recognises me. Yes, thanks, I am aware that this is not rational.
First off, it’s been about 100 years since I was at school. And second, I am officially an actual grown-up and that particular teacher is no longer allowed to sprint after me through the school gates because I’m making a bid for freedom after being called to the headmistress’s office… again (true story).
But actually, a bigger part of me really wants to say thanks. Because that teacher actually made a huge difference to my life – even if I
am was completely terrified of her.
As a teenager, I was dealing with a lot of … stuff. I’d spent eight years in foster care before I was adopted. During those teenage years I realised just how bloody unfair some of the things that had happened to me were. At the same time, I spent a lot of time convinced that if I caused too much trouble, maybe my parents would just decide to give me back.
So I acted out, as teenagers do. There was truanting, and drinking, and a general buffet of self-destructive behaviour.
My form teacher was one of the only people I ever spoke to about the things I was too scared to say to my parents. She kept my secrets, including a couple that I’ve never shared with another soul.
She spoke up for me in meetings with people who wanted to kick me out of school. She had my back, even while she was being remarkably generous with the number of detentions she gave me. She once told me that, whatever I thought, she knew I wasn’t a rotten apple. Then she put me on report, which meant I had to have a teacher sign a little book to confirm I’d turned up to my lessons.
Thanks in large part to that teacher, I got to sit my exams. That meant I got to do my A-Levels, and get to university, and then to do a post-grad, and then to work in journalism. I ended up doing the job I’d wanted to do since I was seven years old.
I used to think, sometimes, about sending her a card to say thanks for what she did for me. But it felt weird. Awkward, maybe.
I worried that she’d hate to be reminded of that moody teenager who gave her all those fake absence notes (“Your Grandma died, again?”) and stashed those bottles of vodka in her locker. Or maybe she just wouldn’t remember at all – there must be so many kids, over a career. Does it matter if one person says thank you?
But now I think maybe it’s too late. Is there a guideline on how late is too late to say thanks? Thanks for having faith in me, when I didn’t have any in myself. Thanks for being a safe person to talk to. Thanks for keeping me on track – just enough – so I could get where I wanted to go. Thanks for being that person for me, and for countless other kids, I suspect.
Either way, I tell Flea, “Be good to her. She’s a great teacher.” And also, “Don’t ever try and run away from her. Because she’s way faster than you think.”
Photo Credit: Annie Spratt/Unsplash