Funny thing meeting kids you used to teach 10 or more years ago. They have this curious habit of turning into adults. In fact the children in my first class will now be in their late thirties. Strange thought.
It’s delightful when you do meet them as grown ups though because you can see what’s become of them and have a proper adult conversation about the old days and some of the unlikelier things that happened. There’s an awkward moment when they aren’t sure what to call you and, of course, on your part the worry that they may have turned into delinquents, tax evaders or Arsenal supporters.
But let me tell you about three I met recently who have turned out to be, well, quite wonderful members of society. I’ve changed their names in case they come after me. First of all there’s Collette. She’s now happily married, a mum with a lovely toddler girl, and what’s more she’s a champion grass track racer. She’s still a bit gobby but has retained a great sense of humour and an infectious personality. She’s just someone I’m really pleased to know.
Then there’s Lydia. She’s just come out of university with a first class degree in Law and has passed all the exams to qualify as a barrister. She’s hard working, lively, caring and ambitious in the best kind of way. I never had any doubts she would succeed but she’s made her family really proud and done the same for me. I just know she’s going to do well in her chosen profession.
Finally, Max. Wow. He was never the most confident, nor the cleverest nor the sportiest at school but he had something about him – a spark, a twinkle in the eye and a cheeky sense of fun that was infectious. But he has excelled himself in every way as a mature young man in his twenties. He trained to be a teacher and went to Africa in his gap year, volunteering at a primary school. Venturing out into the remoter rural areas of Kenya he discovered a terrible lack of educational provision for the many deaf children who had been affected by malaria. He went home and raised money for a classroom for them to be built.
But Max didn’t stop there. He saw that deaf children were walking miles to the school, desperate for a chance to improve themselves so he went back to the UK, raised thousands of pounds and built a dormitory for them, personally overseeing the construction to ensure it was done properly and that materials weren’t stolen. It has been a great success and since then Max has raised thousands more and radically changed the lives of African children, trapped in poverty, for the better. All this when he was just in his early twenties. No big charity to do the admin, no government support, no aid programme assistance – just him and some mates.
I am proud to have been their teacher.
By the way, if you’d like to support Max’s project then email me and I’ll send you the details.