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Ma'am, forgive their indifference. I know I can

Comment | Published in TES Newspaper on 7 January, 2011 | By: Chloe Combi

On 23 July 1986, I remember my best friend from my first year at school whispering to me that her usually completely bonkers and terrifyingly strict mother had let her have a sherry at 10 o'clock that morning. That belief-beggaring admission confirmed the day's fairytale quality. Someone in the royal family had married his ginger princess and little kids were allowed to booze it up.

I have no memory of the 1981 wedding of Charles and Diana, but have seen the footage, of course. Thousands of kids from all walks of life lined the streets and sat on walls hoping to catch a glimpse of that fairytale. Fast-forward to 2011 and, having heeded no lessons from the ending of the other fairytales, we are braced for the next royal wedding this April.

When plans for this royal matrimony were announced, I was interested to see what effect it might have on teenage cynicism. After all, if the announcement could stop The Daily Mail fretting and frowning for the day, who knew what impact it might have on schools? I had visions that hormones would be subsumed by old-fashioned courtship: boys would throw school blazers over puddles for girls and everyone would start waxing lyrical in received pronunciation.

Actually, I didn't believe that would happen, but I was still surprised by the total indifference I discovered. The shrugged shoulders and looks of boredom were telling, but one pupil's "Why should we care?" was most eloquent. Indeed, why should the average teenager care about the wedding of a family who are so socially and economically removed from them they might as well exist in a story book?

This is why, despite the hysteria, teenagers won't represent much of the demographic that buy the OK! magazine tribute editions and the novelty mugs, plates, tea towels, champagne bottles, Oyster cards and condoms. This is because teenagers care about things they can relate to and things that attempt to speak to them, rather than at them. It is why they like EastEnders, Tinie Tempah, Arctic Monkeys, Dizzee Rascal and Harry Potter - because they see a bit of themselves in there and feel that people are attempting some understanding of them.

As any teacher knows, this rule stands supreme in the classroom. If there isn't depth and sincerity in your lessons, you are both professionally and personally in trouble and probably won't last that long.

This is not to suggest people shouldn't be able to get excited about the wedding of Wills and Kate. But expecting teenagers to get very excited is optimistic. The most generous comment I have heard was from one of my Year 9 pupils, who hoped "their kid doesn't have mashed-up teeth".

In the event the Windsors want to ensure a teenage audience on the big day, I would suggest Her Maj hires Jay-Z to perform the wedding march. Even I would sit on a wall for that.

Chloe Combi teaches at a comprehensive in London.


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