“A man among boys, and a boy among men”. I don’t know who first came up with this rather contemptuous definition of a schoolmaster. It’s a brain-dead pseudo-proverb, up there with rest of the junk talk; the racist, or sexist, or them-and-us banter that it’s so fatally easy to sling around as your social circle attempts to define and defend itself. Be that as it may, I was aware of it lurking at the back of my mind during the thirty four years that I spent as a teacher, feeding my insecurity. Oh yes, as a teacher you might- if you’re lucky- be the dominant species in your classroom, or even in the microcosm of your school as a whole: but how real is that status? How would you fare in the world of the grown-ups, over the playground wall?
Well, as for me, I’m about to find out. I can vaguely remember an end of term party- there was alcohol and speech-making; the details are blurred, but I’m told I behaved reasonably well. So that’s it. It seems that I’m now retired. I’ve left school at last. If I’m a boy, I’m a damned old one. And if those I find myself among are men, they’d better behave like men, and not overgrown schoolchildren. It’s time to start opening the crossmessparzel.