Well that was unexpected.
A request from a potential new Facebook friend. The name’s distantly familiar. So is the face, when I take a look at his profile, and those dim bells clanging at the very back of my mind are telling me he’s somehow connected to the school I worked at, before everything changed. His profile says he’s from my old town. Slightly bemused and curious, I press the Accept button.
An hour later, the young man messages me. He’d been a student teacher at the school for a few weeks, it emerges, while I was working there. We’d chatted several times in the staff room. I feel slightly less embarrassed now that my recall was somewhat dim. In the intervening years, he’s moved around the country, married, had children and is now back there and doing my old job – teaching Year 6 at the same Essex school. Somewhat synchronous…
He tells me about life there these days. Sounds ghastly – endless new initiatives imposed by clueless, reactionary politicians, ‘special measures’ imposed on the staff, ‘academy status’ whatever that is – more and more control from above, obviously – and packs of disaffected kids prowling the building and contemplating escape. I suddenly feel very safe and cosseted by my present easy lifestyle. Also mildly guilty for getting out when I did.
Then he totally amazes me.
“I read your book,” he says.
Really? I can’t imagine anyone in Essex reading my book. He tells me it inspired him and that he now has a totally new attitude towards education and is considering getting out of the crumbling system and educating in other ways. He’s been on a Forest Schools course. He’s thinking about working for a local wildlife trust and using that as a base for educating.
Good grief! What did I write in that book? It’s been a long while since I read it, so I take it off the shelf and have another look.
It most certainly isn’t about education, or how to educate. It does have a rather teacherly style, though. Re-reading it makes me wince slightly. Did I really explain a multi-dimensional universe by instructing the reader on how to make a paper model? It reads like the script of a 1980s episode of Blue Peter, for those who know what that is. And yet it kind of works…
What I was trying to do, when I put it together, was to write a book about the meaning and purpose of Life, the Universe and Everything which avoided all the wafty new-age psychobabble, mystical ramblings and cliches, (How DO you insert an acute accent on WordPress??) that were so prevalent when it was published in 2012.
The video game analogy is hopelessly overworked; the style (in an attempt to draw in a ‘youth’ audience) veers much closer to patronising than I’d now wish, yet it still has a sort of raw charm and honesty, I suppose, and a few ideas and insights which I haven’t seen expressed anywhere else. Not a complete waste of time, then.
So how the young man discovered it and chose to read it, I’ll probably never know, but I’m all about encouraging everyone, myself included, to move out of the comfort zone and into newer and greater experience. That appears to be – so early indications are suggesting – what 2016 is all about.
And what is the message for me? There definitely is one; it says so in the book:
These synchronicities act like a sort of mental sticking plaster and are strong enough to hold the two of you together; to keep you talking and interacting until you both get the information or experience that you need…
Is this episode telling me to stop faffing about and to get on with writing the next book… and making it better?