I learned so much by having a drink of cider . . . with my students
This week I have been selected to accompany a small group of 6th Years to an outdoor pursuits centre.
You'd think after a first day spent in the rain, doing water sports and having to endure the constant and mindless shouting of our PE teaching staff, that it would be all 'good night, sleep tight' amongst the ranks of our young scholars -- but alas, no; there's always enough energy left for mischief-making.
That night, returning from a nocturnal visit to the bathroom, I suddenly become aware of the unmistakable hiss of whispering adolescents.
Finally I'm standing outside a laundry room; I have tracked the source of the furtive activity and after slowly opening the door, so as not to frighten them, I find myself confronted with a group of three boys and one girl, relaxing on quilts and pillows drinking from huge bottles of cider.
"Sir!" Dan Dare, chuckles. "So good to see you! Come on in and join us!"
The sight of the Dare devil slows my plan of attack. He's as crafty and dangerous as they come and has proved to be my downfall on many an occasion.
Apart from that, he's always entertaining and fun to talk to, so, I sit and I take a plastic washing-powder measuring- cup of cider and we start chatting.
From the start Dan wastes no time and grabs my interest.
"Sir, it might seem wrong that you're here drinking with us but when we went to Germany for the exchange we were allowed to drink in the bars there because we were over 16 and even the teachers came with us.
"As long as we handed in our passport and behaved and then left by midnight it was all legal. I'm 18 now and I still get refused and bouncers even physically push me out of places in Ireland. That's not fair."
Before I know it, we're into a discussion on the rights and wrongs of the whole drink culture in Ireland.
I must say I approve of this German idea of giving teenagers the chance to take an apprenticeship in drinking alcohol, even if they showed us no mercy at Lansdowne Road last Friday.
If they're allowed in and get langered or cause trouble, then the bar calls the Polizei who remove them, give them a talking to and hang onto the all-important ID card until they're satisfied the kid has learned his lesson.
Inevitably the conversation degrades over time and we move on. "Sir, is it true that Mr Navan is married to a Thai ladyboy?"
"No," Dan interjects, "Is it true that Mr Navan is a ladyboy?" Cue laughter over the unfortunate maths teacher.
However, as the next hour or so passes, I realise it's a shame we wait for the debs when it's already too late to finally sit down and hear what these kids have to say as people in our community and not just students in our school.
We could learn a lot.