PARENTS

Why I'll Always Be Teacher's Pet

07/01/2012 18:14 | Updated 22 May 2015
Why I'll always be teacher's petClass of 73 - Patricia Carswell sitting next to her teacher

Learning how to be hip has been a lifetime's work. At school I was the classic girly swot, all neat handwriting and gold stars. A class photo from 1973 shows me in pristine ankle socks and sandals, thrilled to have achieved pride of place next to my beloved teacher.

But it wasn't just the glamorous Mrs. Clarke (fabulous in a polkadot mini dress) who earned my devotion. No matter how weird my teachers were – freaks with comb-overs, sadists in tracksuits, sociopaths with body odour – I tried to please them all. Impressing the staff was my specialist subject; I was a natural born suck-up.

All that came to an end when I left school. Determined to reform myself into a tolerably cool adult, I worked hard to shed my geeky image. I pored over fashion magazines, listened to the right music and broke the odd rule. I even - long after I'd left school - made friends with some of the kids from the in-crowd.

But then along came my children. From the moment they started school, my efforts to be groovy went straight out of the window. There was something about being thrust back into a world of homework, timetables and echoing corridors that brought out my inner schoolgirl.

As I walked up the steps to the school on my son's first day, some teacher-pleasing switch was triggered in my susceptible brain. In an instant I went from stylish, professional girl-about-town to earnest, ingratiating teacher's pet.

I was a hopeless case. Soon after term began we were invited to a special assembly. To the intense embarrassment of my husband, when the headteacher said, "Let us pray", I clasped my hands together in an absurd display of childlike piety. I couldn't help myself: in my mind I was still six years old.

The grovelling continued. I baked flapjacks for the school fete and looked askance at the shop-bought buns offered by other, less dedicated, mothers. I allowed the mannish, clipboard-wielding head of the PTA to boss me around. I rejected slummy-mummy iron-on name tapes and spent hours sewing on labels. I sent forms back on time; I volunteered. I was, quite simply, the model parent.

Mercifully, by the time my second child reached school age, I'd calmed down a bit. Tired of conforming (it's an exhausting business), I'd started to return to my normal self. I'd given up ironing the sports kit and had resigned from the PTA after I managed to arrange a coffee morning that clashed with the school play.

Even then, though, I couldn't quite kick the habit. At a parents' event where they tried to teach us new maths, I may have sat at the back with the cool parents and whispered and giggled, but I still tried – really tried – to come top of the class. Once a creep, always a creep.

So where did it all go wrong? No doubt there's some part of me that is still refusing to grow up - and that part will always want to be the darling of the staff room.

I comfort myself with the thought that being an adult goody-two-shoes is better than acting the rebel. There's something distinctly tragic about a woman in her 40s trying to be a bad girl – and I'm not sure I could carry off the black eyeliner and hitched-up-skirt look anyway.

Being a model parent makes it easier to lay down the law, too: much simpler to lead by example than persuade my children that they should do as I say and not as I do. Being obedient may not earn me marks for street cred, but at least it gets the kids to school on time.

One last thought, though. If there are any teachers reading this, you will give me marks out of 10, won't you?

Are you a teacher's pet even in adulthood?

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