Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

Anything but Clean Cut

Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

Anything but Clean Cut

Article excerpt

Before I came to this country, I understood that the tropics can do strange things to a Brit. Being here pushes your cultural identity to its limits, and you either adopt a starched-collar approach or start ballroom dancing naked to Wagner on the veranda while taking potshots at snakes with a 12-bore.

At first it seemed my school fell into the former camp - after all, we are obliged to wear ties in 30 degsC heat. But a recent charity event changed my perception.

I am not a man blessed with follicular fecundity, but when a group of teens asks you to grow a moustache to raise money for "kids with cancer", it's hard to refuse.

This campaign culminated in an event known as "The Big Shave" where students bid to shave off a teacher's tash. And as I sat on the auditorium stage, it occurred to me that in a decade of teaching I had experienced few moments of greater awkwardness. Only the time I projected an email including the phrase "shamefaced ginger blackguard" to a class containing the very same auburn teen came close.

It was an optional lunchtime event and the majority of the school was still eating, but we kicked off nonetheless. An older teacher was first up, and there was a deafening silence as he failed to raise a single hand for the $1 (60p) starting price. A Year 7 girl was finally magnanimous enough to shell out.

I am afraid to say my own bidding was not much more successful. I hoped it would be a male winner, since this might at least have shifted the encounter from the agonising to the almost amusing. No such luck. Ratana from my Year 9 class was my only supporter at a dazzling $2. …

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