‘If you want to feel old, teach’ should be the new TTA (teacher training agency) strapline.

It is becoming more apparent with every passing week as to just how different life is for kids these days.

The other day, teaching ‘needs and wants’ after explaining that food, water and shelter were needed, I posed a question: "Is a phone a need or a want?"

As with previous years I was in the minority of one as the teenagers firmly disagreed with my summation that you don’t need a mobile phone to survive. They asked me what I did when I was their age, and I recounted the process: "You’d arrange the weekend meet up on the Tuesday (3pm in Hastings town centre) and then you’d be there."

"What if one of you was late? Would you call each other? "They would ask. "‘No, we couldn’t. We would call one of the mums on a landline." "What’s a landline?" they would ask… and on it went until they beat me into submission and I gritted my teeth and agreed with them, just so we could move onto something a little different.

East London and West Essex Guardian Series: Brett Ellis is being made to feel old when he faces a classroom of teenagersBrett Ellis is being made to feel old when he faces a classroom of teenagers

In those days, turning the TV over meant leaning over the back of the telly and switching the Rediffusion switch to A, B, C or D (after Channel 4 went live) and I remember neighbours coming in to fawn over our first remote control which was wired (and hence not remote) and traipsed across the living room floor as we pressed with all our might to make the bloody thing work.

Holidays weren’t all inclusive packages to Sharm El sheik, but us loading up a Honda Civic or Ford Cortina and driving to Spain (twice) and Italy. As glamourous as that sounds, there was no air con or tech to amuse us in the back as father, sitting in front of me, ate some ‘foreign muck’ and spent the three days from Calais to Alicante a few inches in front of me as he flatulated to the point of retching.

Still, at least we didn’t have seatbelts or health and safety to contend with as we bashed our pram wheeled, wooden block braked go cart into a neighbours wall and kept Elastoplast in business through the late 70s and 80s.

So, is the phone a need or a want? Taking what we came from, it is still a want, although later on this afternoon it will become a need as I have to call the chiropractor to help fix the bad back which became an issue as a teen as I lifted a heavy dustbin for £1.50 an hour at my part time job in a fish and chip shop in Winchelsea beach - for compensation, I was given a 20 minute sit down, a bag of chips and a can of coke before being told to ‘crack on’.

  • Brett Ellis is a teacher.