"My experience is simply not applicable to others," he said. "I would never expect others to make the same choice I did. What I'm doing is not that noble. I work among these people, but at night I retreat to the leisure of my house and girlfriend. I've kept my old friends, I go with them to trendy restaurants and on weekend jaunts. I have other means. I own four apartments, of which I rent three for income."

I insisted his choice was admirable, hero or not. He insisted that free will - choosing your own path - was an incredible luxury. I didn't know whether­ this observation stemmed from his wealthy upbringing, or from five years of witnessing students rarely rise above their Walthamstow surroundings. Anthony could follow his father to Eton and Cambridge but he could never become a gentleman farmer like his father was. That lifestyle had died with his father.

Again I disagreed. "You don't think most kids today don't feel the same way - that the life their parents led isn't an option anymore? The social contract that bound husband to wife and worker to employer is long gone."

I asked him what his mother thought of his becoming a schoolteacher at one of the poorest-performing schools in the entire country.

"Mom is disgraced." He laughed.

What distinguishes people like An­thony is that their motivation comes from the heart, not the head. Life is not a dress rehearsal, it's the real thing. It's that one chance in front of the examiners. It's precious and vulnerable. And those who feel this are willing to make hard choices.

The intellectually motivated person might read Anthony's story while thinking, That would be a good thing to do, but imagine all the bureaucratic crap he has to put up with! I considered writing about the bureaucrap he has to fight - curriculum auditors had turned the school upside down the week prior to my visit - but why indulge that conversation? The right question is not "What's the Crap Factor?" The right question is "How can I find something that moves my heart, so that the inevitable crap storm is bearable?"

THE ROMANTIC DEPRESSIVE