THE BLOG

A toast to teachers

09/06/2014 13:41 BST | Updated 06/08/2014 10:59 BST

I am 28 years old. I left university seven years ago, sixth-form college 10 years ago, secondary school 13 years ago and primary school 18 years ago.

I remember leaving them all. That last day, walking out and not looking back. Determined that the next step would be glorious, and for the most part I've struck lucky.

On Tuesday 3 June it was announced that my first book, The Northern Line, was to be published. June is about the time that academic years end for those who are moving on from an establishment, so it felt very fitting to me that this new chapter in my life was starting at the same time of year that all my others did.

As I sat there, my social media going into meltdown as literally tens of people liked and commented on my Facebook announcement, I wondered what some of those who had been most influential in helping me to build myself were up to. And, I wanted to say thank you.

A quick search for my secondary school form tutor led me a place I knew oh too well. I found out that he is now a school governor at the primary school I went to.

When I was 10, and at that very primary school, I went to visit what was to become my secondary school and I said to a teacher who'd shown my parents and me around the science labs, "you'll remember me..."

A year later, he did remember me and said hello as I walked into his classroom. My form tutor showed me immense kindness and I believe that a great part of me was forged over the bunsen burners and assemblies in his science-lab classroom. Although he was only my form tutor and teacher for a year or so before he went onto pastures new, he was memorable and magnificent.

Then I emailed my two English tutors from sixth-form college. Both of these teachers were, and are, contagiously in love with language. It spilled out from them at the front of the classroom, out from the books we read together, and it engulfed us all. They were believers in people and their abilities to grow and develop and they would challenge you intellectually and creatively. On my A-Level results day, the day I found out that I had a place at university, those teachers took us to a reading my Simon Armitage.

Just after I'd click send on both emails, I received a text message from my mother telling me that one of my teachers from secondary school had died. The outpouring of grief, wishes for his family, and enthusiasm for his teaching on social media has shown that there were undoubtedly many who wish they'd said thank you to him for dedicating his life to helping them grow. I am in the boat along with them, and it's not a great place to be.

While we may lucky enough to be able to build our own lives, we shouldn't forget the people who have devoted their careers and lives to giving us the tools to do that building.

Why not raise a glass, a cup or just a smile and give a second thought to those teachers who helped, and continue to help, to change your life? And if you see them, stop them and tell them what you're up to, I know they'll be proud and that you'll both be glad you did.

Teaching isn't easy, and it's getting harder as ministers and parents decide they know best, but teachers will carry on. They'll strive and sweat and do their best and they will change more lives and they'll be remembered in years to come when dreams they helped to build come true.