An Interview with Mr Donaldson on Time | Conducted and Transcribed by Eeman

Backchat: Which is your favourite time period to teach and why?

Mr D: Easy! The making of Modern Britain from 1951 to 2007 because it’s really relevant to students’ lives and I like how they can relate to it and it also brings in politics and economics. Also, probably because it’s the story of my family; my dad, my mum, my grandad lived through this. I’ve found that when teaching history it’s important to relate it back to them because it’s such an abstract subject.

B: If you could talk to your past self for exactly one minute what would you say?

Mr D: Blimey! I think I would say you worry too much. People plan and they never work out how they’re supposed to, but that’s sort of how life works. If I went back to talk to myself as a teenager, I would say stop worrying about what might happen, what you need to do and to relax a little bit because you haven’t got a lot of control over things. As you get older you realise that it matters less what other people might think of you than you believe when you’re growing up. You’ve just got to be yourself!

B: If you could choose to be immortal and have all the time in the world, would you take it?

Mr D: No. Because… I think I’d get bored of it all eventually. This might sound quite dark, but I think one day I’d just like to sleep and leave it all behind. That’s gonna happen anyway at some point, but I just feel like life is so hard and tiring, although I’d like a good innings, at some point I would want it to stop. To avoid boredom as well is difficult, in some ways I’m accepting of the fact that this is temporary and you’re only here for a short time…and that’s fine.

B: What do you think has been the most significant change in the world?

Mr D: I guess today you would sort of say climate change, but in my lifetime the biggest change has been… technology. When I was at university, writing my dissertation, I did it on a typewriter! Computers were something that weren’t common back then, so I think the internet has been a massive change. As a teacher you notice it more, but life in general has become so hectic and busy. Perhaps that’s me saying it as an adult, whereas a child you have more time to daydream. I think lots of people would argue life is more complex now. I think the modern world has become a very busy place to work in.

B: Which period would you like to live in the most?

Mr D: I’m quite happy with now, because that’s where I am. You might get some history teachers that have favourite time periods they would love to visit, but I think I’m quite accepting of the fact that I’m around now. I would love to go to the future, but a bit of history I’d go back to… maybe just for a day.

B: If you could time travel would you choose to go into the past or the future?

Mr D: Future. That’s the great unknown isn’t it? I already know about the past, but the future I have no idea about so it would be quite interesting! Maybe about sort of 50 years ahead. I’d love to travel around space a bit, I think that would be really cool! It’s so gigantic and vast and we’re in such a tiny contained part of the universe, to see it in all its vastness… Because life is actually quite claustrophobic. So maybe a bit of space travel??

B: What do you think humans should aim to do at least once in their lifetime?

Mr D: I have tried skydiving, but I’m not sure it’s something you have to do in your lifetime. It’s such a vast question, but there’s obvious thing like everyone should fall in love. Mostly I think it’s the little things you do every day that everyone should experience, for example, saying hello to your neighbour or having a chat with your kids… It’s the little things like that, that I think add up to make a massive difference. The idea that if you can help someone just a little bit is… I mean if everybody did that the world would be a much nicer place.

B: Where do you see yourself in ten years’ time?

Mr D: Ten years’ time… Not teaching! I’m not one of those people who will have the energy or passion to do it anymore. So, I would probably be somewhere doing a bit of travelling… Back to New Zealand, which is fabulous! Or wandering around Scotland a little bit, exploring. Just spending time doing things I actually want to do! Once you get a job, it steals a lot of time from you and in ten years I will have done my bit in teaching and you lot will have had enough from me. I want to still be young enough to actually put effort into my travelling and have a proper go at it… not on a cruise with a pension and those group coaches. That’s not me!

B: If you had all the time to change one thing about the world, what would it be and why?

Mr D: I’m not sure what it is I would do…. But it would be along the lines of helping as many people as possible. Like reversing climate change, or curing cancer, or making sure coronavirus didn’t get out. Something that would make the most difference to the most amount of people as possible…. That is a massive question!