Personal Column: A lesson to us all

Jenny was 17 when she fell for her charismatic teacher. Soon they were having a relationship. Now 32, she doesn't blame him and says it has not ruined her life. By Katy Guest
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The Independent Online

I was 13 when I first met the new teacher. He was brilliant and fantastic and we all loved him. It was not until I was doing my standard grades, and he started giving me and my best friend extra help before the exams, that we spent any time together outside of class. He was 32 at the time, and he seemed so clever and worldly. He bought us a book, which was just all this sub-Freudian crap, but when you're 15 you think all that is really deep and amazing. We thought everybody must be so jealous of us, spending time with this cool, 32-year-old guy. He was the first teacher we had who talked to you like you were another adult, rather than as a child, and that was why we liked him.

It wasn't until I was in sixth form college doing my highers, and not studying his subject any more, that he invited me out for dinner. I don't know what I thought would happen. I don't think I fancied him, exactly. He wasn't obviously good looking - he was quite nerdy looking, with big, 1980s glasses and a beard - but I thought he was just so amazing that mere aesthetics were immaterial.

I was 17 and going out on dates, although not sleeping with, a man who I thought was the most brilliant person I would ever meet. To be honest, 17-year-old boys didn't stand a chance beside him. It's not that I had a thing about older men, but he was a man, and he was interested in me. He genuinely taught me all sorts of things that I wouldn't have done if I had spent that time hanging out behind the bike sheds with a spotty teenager. And I felt special and attractive.

I couldn't tell you who made the first move. I know I was quite tipsy, and it felt very daring and controversial to be kissing a teacher. I couldn't wait to go home and tell my best friend. I wasn't a virgin at the time, but no, we didn't have sex. I couldn't take him home to my place, and he shared a house with another teacher, so we couldn't go there. We used to snog in his car for hours, feeling like we were star-crossed lovers. So romantic!

Of course, we thought that nobody knew, even though it was obvious that they did. One time, he sent somebody into my class with a message for me, and one of my classmates said very loudly, "Oh, she's the one who's shagging him." The teacher must have heard, but chose to overlook it. I was blasé about the risks, I didn't think he could lose his job over it because I was over 16. I think it would be different now, and I'm not sure it's fair that he might have lost his job and gone to jail for what was essentially a quite ordinary relationship. Often it seemed like I was more in charge than he was. He was a little bit smitten, and used to give me presents and spend money on me. I started to think that he was a little bit sad.

That's what really ended it, I suppose. We went on like this for a few months, and eventually I told my mum, who I lived with. I don't think it came as a surprise; it's funny how you think you are fooling your parents, but they know everything you're doing. She didn't really mind. I don't remember this happening, but I recently heard that someone had walked past my house once and saw him mowing my mum's lawn. The girls at school apparently said that I was taking advantage of him.

We broke up the summer after my exams: I ended it. I got bored and was going away to university and didn't want a long-distance relationship. We kept in touch for a while, and I've heard he went off to a remote part of Britain and got married to a much older woman. I'm pleased.

The only thing that bugged me was when he said one day: "I can't believe that we're going out, I've always liked you, ever since we met." I thought, "Well, we met when I was 13." Did he like me then?

It's a hard line to draw, because he was a brilliant teacher, and I wonder if a lot of brilliant teachers, who are prepared to give that extra time and attention, are a bit too fond of their students. Should this one have been prosecuted for it? I don't think so. I'm very happy now, and married. I really hope that he is, too.

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