I went from zero to hero -- what a turn-up for the books!
Published 11/05/2011 | 05:00
While I am aware of the importance and privileges involved in being a teacher -- a position that invokes all the magical traditions of inspiring and guiding young people invoked by films such as Dead Poets' Society and Dangerous Minds -- most of the time I'd have to admit that being a teacher doesn't make me feel too sexy.
Nobody ever says, "Oh, you're a teacher, what's that like?" Everyone knows, or think they know, because they once sat in a class room, mostly being bored stupid by someone like me.
Through his job, my best friend from childhood regularly meets up with Alex Ferguson and all the top Premiership soccer stars. Am I jealous? You bet I am.
All this particularly becomes acute when I am 'hailed' on the crowded Main Street with a 'Hey Grade, you w**ker!' or 'Mr Grade! Mr Grade! You're a f***ing queer!' This latest tribute to my professional status was received as I gallantly opened the door of the restaurant to allow Mrs Grade to enter ahead of me, only for the torrent of abuse to flow into the startled dining area.
Afterwards, I found it hard to get the mood back once the entire restaurant had looked at me contemptuously with that familiar; "Ah, a teacher. Disgraceful the way they let kids behave these days."
Not surprisingly, Mrs Grade long ago gave up trying to build up my ego as I painfully realise a few days later. I'm trying on a jacket in a shop and I ask her what she thinks. First she looks doubtful as she takes in the brown and orange squares and then says, "you look a bit like a teach...", before she checks herself and says, "yeah, it's very nice!"
Then, over Easter, we were invited to the launch of a new soft drink in Dublin by a friend of hers who works in PR. Naturally the place was heaving with minor celebs and I felt like an imposter amongst all those perfect people, imagining there was, as a pupil of mine once loudly proclaimed on a packed CIE bus, "a smell of teacher" in the room.
Suddenly it was too late and one of the founders of the soft drinks company, a good-looking guy in his early thirties, a cross between Richard Branson and Tony Blair, is standing there smiling at me, offering me a drink.
We exchange names and here it comes, he's asking me what I do.
Oh no. "I am a teacher."
"Really! I was training to be a teacher when I applied for a summer placement with Virgin and then I started this company. My parents are teachers, so is my brother -- it's such an important job!'
Cheryl Cole and Wayne Rooney could have been standing there and he would have ignored them -- this young millionaire wanted to talk to me -- unbelievable -- because I do the job he had originally wanted to do!
Oh yes, "in your darkest moment comes divine illumination' and all that.