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The Science of Reinvention

By Jamie Rodney

When I was in S6, Scotland went to the polls in our independence referendum. After the result was declared, scuffles broke out in Glasgow’s George Square, between supporters of the Yes and No campaigns. It just so happened that I had Advanced Higher Modern Studies the day after the Referendum, and it just so happened that as I was walking into my classroom I overheard one of my classmates asking my teacher if he’d “Heard about the riots in George Square.”

My teacher shrugged, and told her that “riot” was an exaggeration, that it was probably nothing major, and that any disturbances, such that they were, would fizzle out quickly.

This was, without exaggeration, one of the most confusing, and surprising moments of my time in Secondary School. Why? Because during Referendum night, i’d happened to have been stalking my Modern Studies teacher on twitter (I’m fun like that), and seen him tweeting about the very same episode he was discussing now. Except back then, less than twelve hours previously, he’d been far less calm about it- I don’t think he used the word “riot”, but the implication was there.

Now, to be fair, maybe I was being naive, but I was genuinely nonplussed by this. Why would my teacher contradict himself like this? It wasn’t like he’d been tweeting anything especially controversial or inflammatory, that he’d need to keep hidden to keep his job. It wasn’t like he was the kind of person to think his students needed protection from harsh truths, either-he had a reputation for being brutally, unapologetically honest. Yet here he was, apparently giving two completely contradictory interpretations of the same situation, depending on who he was speaking to.

I’ve puzzled over that in my spare moments for the past couple of years (like I said, i’m fun like that), and I think I might just have worked it out. Despite the fact quite a few of my teachers were on twitter (yes, I stalked them too, and no, that isn’t weird I promise), this particular one didn’t follow, and wasn’t followed by any of them. Nor did he seem to have any close personal friends on his twitter- instead, he mainly followed- and was followed by- politicians and political activists of different stripes. Now, this could have just been dismissed as the behaviour of someone without close friends, who preferred chatting about politics to socialising, but again, that didn’t fit with the rest of what I knew about him- he was charismatic, gregarious and, as far as I can remember, popular with both students and teachers.

I think, then, that it’s more likely that his twitter represented for him some kind of means of escape, a place where he could take on a skin- confrontational, radical that wasn’t available to him in the classroom.

The reason i’m telling you all of this (and you need a very good reason to admit to twitter-stalking your teachers), is because I think there’s an important lesson about relationships to be learned here. Not everybody does it as transparently as my Modern Studies teacher did, but we all play different roles- embody different selves, even- depending on who we’re with. Especially in as cliquey a place in St Andrews, fitting in with a different group requires a level of self-reinvention. This is something that’s worth keeping in mind, as we try to navigate our relationships- your friends will help to define what version of yourself you present to the world, so it’s important you find people who let you bring out your best one.

Or, alternatively, i’m just talking garbage, and stalking teachers across social media in the early hours of the morning isn’t a good use of your time. Either way.

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