Teaching children with Asperger’s at a boarding school is genuinely the most rewarding thing I could have chosen to do with my life.
When I became a teacher eight years ago, I never imagined my working day would ever involve getting students out of bed, or explaining to them why simply saying “Hello” in response to somebody else is such a social necessity.
I find my role encompasses so much more than waxing lyrical about Shakespeare, James Joyce or the range of linguistic techniques used in non-fiction. A large part of it is exploring, imparting and modelling the importance of emotional intelligence or – in short – explaining why yes, it’s indeed very impressive to spew Dylan Thomas from memory, but it’s a hell of a lot more important to be able to go into a shop and actually converse with the shopkeeper.
Emotional intelligence is a funny concept, particularly aligned with Education – my little pocket of this fantastic blog.
I like to consider myself to be reasonably educated. I have an admittedly disgusting number of A*s and As at GCSE and A Level, along with a rather nice degree from a good University.
I believe education starts the minute you draw your first breath and, if you’re doing life right, maintains itself until your very last. As such, I’ve always been a bit of an information sponge. This is, of course, another reason I’m a teacher. I learn something new every day – whether it’s a nugget of information from my wonderful students, or just how to put up with other adults who really bloody infuriate me.
But emotional intelligence?
That’s so much more than grades on a bit of paper.
Until recently I considered myself to be within the upper echelons of emotional intelligence. You sort of have to be, in a career based so heavily on forming positive, effective relationships. That was, however, until a recent performance management meeting (yes, honestly!) in which I realised I was thirty, in possession of two cats, and well on the way to the Mad Cat Lady stereotype!
Three years after the end of a seven-year relationship, I was still single, with absolutely zero dating experience in my adult life. Couple that with a desperate need for perfection in my career – my boss gave me a sharp wake-up call when she referred to it as an “overdependence” – and you are left with a picture of someone who really isn’t half as educated as she thinks she is.
Living as a serial monogamist since the age of sixteen does odd things to a person.
It can render you nothing more than the product of your partnership. Or, when it ends, can leave you adrift at sea, clinging to the massive Ikea canvas you inherited in the split, like Kate Winslet in Titanic.
I hoped a recent foray into online dating would therefore tell me a bit about myself as a Single Lady, but what it actually told me was that ‘Mr Hilarious Emails’ would turn out to be ‘Mr Vaguely Racist’ after a few rum and cokes, and that I have no idea what I actually want, let alone leaving it up to a computer matching program to decide for me.
Everyone I’ve been with before has been the opposite of what I thought I wanted. I swoon over slim, brooding rockstar/artist types with swept brown fringes and skinny jeans, yet my seven year relationship was a conservative strawberry blonde Rick Astley-a-like, and my sixth form boyfriend was a shy computer nerd.
A chap with whom I had a short dalliance whilst working together at a summer camp was probably the closest to my “type”. He was a guitarist and we had incredible chemistry but he was also a serial cheat and player, even though he was short, looked a bit like Penfold and had significant communication difficulties.
Back to square one.
For that reason, I’ve ticked the box in my online dating profile saying it’s not important to me that my match is “generally considered attractive”.
Attraction, to me, comes with knowing somebody inside out, rather than just his appearance.
And generally, when it comes to appearance, I find people attractive that most other women deem as “needing a good wash”.
Nevertheless, I confess to being more than a little disappointed when someone with an interesting profile pops up as a 5 foot 5 stocky type, with a round head and questionable political leanings, or a blonde suit with ankle-swinger trousers and the photographic demeanour of a deer in the headlights.
A previously intriguing profile now becomes a definite no.
I didn’t think I placed that much importance on looks. Perhaps I do. And yes, I admit it: I seek out people with degrees.
Shoot me down, stick me in the corner, put me in detention. I deserve it.
What am I getting at?
Well, I have come to the realisation that, for somebody whose working day is spent apparently spewing rainbows of wisdom, I am painfully uneducated.
I am, save a few tentative tickles, a dating virgin. I am a really crappy Bridget Jones.
I am Budget Jones.
My approach to the Education Experiment is therefore thrice-pronged. A dating trident, if you will.
- Investigate education-based dating opportunities…singles’ nights for teachers, that sort of thing. I mean, it’s not as if we get enough opportunity to bitch about Michael Gove in the staffroom, is it? And truth be told: I work many hours (apart from the holidays, yay! Want to yell at me about them? Become a teacher!) and teachers understand that in other teachers.
- Explore the education spectrum in an effort to rid myself of any unintentional snobbery. I’ve never dated anybody who left school at sixteen, neither have I dated a chap in possession of anything higher than a year’s post-grad. As unimportant as a person’s level of education may well turn out to be, the voyage of discovery may throw up some interesting comparisons.
- Achieve my Dating Diploma. Yes, seriously; it’s time to take some dating lessons. Friends with several years’ hardened experience on the London dating carousel? Expect a telephone call!
I’ll keep you updated on my developments as and when; I’m so excited to be part of such a great project. As for now? It’s half ten and I’ve still got to write a narrative extract based on Skyrim in order to get my game-obsessed Year 10s to learn how to use quotes. I wish I could Fus-Ro-Dah myself into half term…!
Until next time,