When I was a science teacher in an East End comprehensive, I used to teach – or rather, tried to teach – a boy now known as Dizzee Rascal.
A few weeks ago I went to a film premiere where, across a crowded room, he shouted very loudly, “Miss, miss! What you doin’ here, man?! I seen you on TV, miss. ‘Av you got any jokes about me, man?”
He then grabbed me, hugged and kissed me. I didn’t know what to do. This is someone whom I still see as my student, and he still calls me “Miss” in public. He’s 24 now, but I can’t get it out of my head that he was once my student. “Miss, was I really bad at school?” he asked.
I said, “Dylan [his real name], you were terrible. I knew when you were in school because my lab door was being kicked down and Mars bars were thrown through my windows.”
He put his head in his hands and said, “Oh no, I’m sorry.”
Unconsciously, I reverted to teacher mode. “How’s your mum?”
His face dropped. “You remember my mum? Oh, she’s OK.” He smiled.
“She must be really proud of you.”
All of a sudden he turned into the little boy I knew all those years ago – shy, humble, vulnerable. “The only thing that can really embarrass you,” I said, “is the mention of your mum.”
As I walked to the car, my mum rang. “Why are you out? It’s 11 o’clock at night. You’d better be covered up, it’s cold.”
I looked at the hole in my fishnet tights, and thought, “You can’t hide anything from a mum.”