As a child, there is no greater twinkle of success than a moment in which your knowledge outstrips that of an adult.
At the beginning of my time at intermediate school, the teachers set the ground rules for the classroom. There was to be no iniquity, whispering, knuckle-clicking, gum-chewing, or reflecting of sunlight on to the white board using the face of your wristwatch (do try this at school, kids).
But one teacher stood apart from the others. He was a teacher who was destined to be a defining marker of my childhood; a man who simultaneously possessed the childish spirit required to connect with boys, and the maturity and wisdom to make us aspire to be men.
Within his maths classroom, there was a rule which set him apart from the other teachers. A spell cast which only occupied those four walls, a portal to another stage of our lives which we had not yet reached.
The rule was simple - should you find an error in his mathematical formulae, his working, or in the way which it was presented, he would pluck a hair out of his beard. As 12-year-old boys, we nodded back believingly as he assured the class of the great suffering which came from the plucking of a beard hair.
But the hair was a symbolic gesture - the self-flagellation was not required, because our forgiveness of his mistakes had already come in reciprocation and appreciation for the licence he had given us to dare question his exactitude.
Four times that year he was made to pluck a hair, and of course to present it to one student in the front row of the classroom, who acted as a chef de mission to relay in great trust to the room so they could be assured of the authenticity of the pluck.
There were infinitely more claims of error than there were plucks, and the class mood towards the incorrect accuser was not of standard youth schadenfreude but rather of moping and pity for ourselves collectively. The whole exercise united the class as a team in a unified effort to topple the goliath that was a member of teaching staff. We did not want to topple him out of spite, however - this was a play wrestle.
The motivation was not to see the hair pluck, nor the comical yowl which came with it. Rather it was done for the act itself. The proving of an adult, let alone a member of staff, incorrect was morbidly fascinating. It was stomach churning in the most exhilarating way possible. It was the allure of lingerie, combined with the sight of a knee bending in the direction it is not supposed to.
We wanted to watch it because it wasn't something that should have been seen by the eyes of a child; it elevated us to adults, or at least put us on an equal footing. It was the first time, for many of us I'm sure, that we began to realise we were growing up and taking a place in the world around us.
Until then, there were only two other ways in which we could run rings around adults; literally running rings around adults with their bung knees, and by the use of our memory, which was not yet burdened with the due dates of bills and the location of the fuel cap button and the bank account details.
So when my mum or dad would pause part way through the sentence, and the tell-tale glance up at the ceiling would come, and the staggered muttering of "what was… that called… his name", interspersed with aggressive hums, I always took my chance to pounce on the answer they were looking for. I took great delight in these lapses for the chance it gave me to step up. I was perplexed by the memory flaws that plagued them - how could you not remember a word?
Now an adult myself, I have of course been struck down. My weakness is not in general memory, but rather the most socially devastating of them all - names and faces. Should you be reading this and are not a member of my immediate family (and by that I mean the ones in my house, whom also get frequently misnamed), then I most likely don't recall what you are called. I shall bestow upon you the most universal moniker of all - "mate".
What I have come to realise is that teachers are not heroes for putting up with snotty little brats, nor for plucking out beard hairs when they are in the wrong. They are heroes because they can remember a full classroom of kids' names. For that they should be paid whatever they ask for.