I’ve deliberately chosen a title that makes me sound arrogant, for no other reason than to flush an opinion or two out. I’m not an oppositionist in real life. I rather dislike the arbitrariness of some people’s stance on issues because much of it is posited on a notion of all ideas in life being on a binary scale. And I loathe the groupthink that all forms of media (including twitter, sadly) create around issues that leads to the reduction or elimination of nuanced debate, and the virtual shouting matches that follow.
What I really mean by the title above is that, in the words of a favourite song of mine by Hue & Cry, is that “I try to be a daily genius, no idea beyond my reach”. I have no doubt that on many (most) of these daily attempts at being a genius I fall well short of the mark, but then there are other days when the trying pays off; when I do find the ideas beyond my reach and become a genius. And I hope for the sake of the people I share my life with – family, friends, colleagues, complete strangers – that I manage to do so more often than I fail to do so. If that is the case then maybe, just maybe, I can lay claim to be a daily genius.
Does that make me arrogant? It’s an accusation I’ve faced once or twice and one I suspect that I’ll face again, but it’s one that I think is far from true. At primary I was a fairly unremarkable child completely overshadowed by an amazingly and academically intelligent older brother called Paul. His reports, graded in a now bygone style, contained only As with a majority of A+ judgements. Mine were Cs, with the odd B- to delight my family every other year. I hated him on report day, but had no jealousy or dislike of him on any other day. He was he and I was me.
And then things changed beyond all comprehension on the dark, dank night of 27th January 1983 when Paul was knocked down (or rather up then down) by a speeding car driven by a man who was probably drunk so didn’t stop and only reported himself to a police station much later in the evening. Being the son of a single parent I became, to the many one-off relatives who attended the funeral (never seen before, never seen since) the “man of the house”. That was a title that weighed heavily on me, and that I took so seriously that I dried up my tears immediately and got on with the job. But still I didn’t become the potentially arrogant, potentially daily genius that you see before you.
And the reason for that was because I was still the unremarkable boy that I ever was. The difference was that I had now become remarkable for something I wished had never happened; and had done so within weeks of starting the secondary school where Paul was supposed to have been waiting for me. The result was predictable, and was confirmed when I joined the worst tutor group of the year: I was bullied and bullied senselessly for a year. And although things improved over time (I was moved groups in what is now Y8) secondary school was little more than a 7 year period of purgatory for me. No daily genius then.
But there was one amazingly bright light in that time in the form of my English teacher Mr. Podhajecki (or Pod as he was always known to us) who started the transformation that I feel I am still undergoing. Quite simply he liked me, as he liked all of us (I thought it was just me but I later found out that everyone felt the same thing – what a skill) and he was interested in me. After three years with him I found that I quite liked me, not enough to become remarkable, but enough to believe that I could see ideas beyond my reach.
Having breezed through GCSEs and almost fatally stumbled through A-Levels (two Grade Ds and thankful for the expansion of the polytechnics that happened that year) I found myself without a bed and with virtually no money in the city of Hull, 120 miles from home. And it was from that moment that I started to become remarkable (incidentally I find all human beings remarkable in some way) to myself. There were setbacks along the way in the form of a failed first year, a shambolic first marriage and some real career lowlights following that divorce. But those setbacks couldn’t disguise the fact that I felt like I’d emerged from the 8 year cocoon that I’d wrapped around myself upon becoming the ‘man of the house’. I even learned to cry again, and now I proudly drop tears at the merest hint of sadness or happiness (it sometimes happens when I’m praising or telling off students!!!).
I’m aware that this sounds like a woe-is-me song of sadness but I really don’t mean it to be. I have never wanted a different life, just to be happy with the life I have – warts and all. And I am happy and stupidly (wonderfully) optimistic about pretty much everything, which is the form my daily genius takes. I believe that everything is possible and I try to bring that into all my personal and professional relationships. That’s not to say I think that positive thinking is the answer to everything. But it is a bloody good place to start when you don’t know what to do next.
And that’s why I teach. And why I lead. Because I think working with learning children and learning adults is the most optimistic place to be. Because I think seeing the unseen talent in people is the reason for going into teaching and leading. And because I think that I am quite good at it. A bit of a daily genius when I’m at my best, and that makes me happy with me.