Monday, 29 June 2015

you're the inspiration

Each week in the TES a celebrity is interviewed about their favourite teacher from their schooldays; and each week I think about mine and wish that I could achieve minor celebrity status for a millisecond to write him. And Lo and Behold my wish was granted on Post40Bloggers Writing Prompt no.33.

Dear Mr H.

What an inspiration you were to me back in the mid-80s. Thrust into a small town with some small minds, a happy little black girl stood on the threshold of secondary schooldom with a thirst for knowledge. A child who would lose herself in books for hours on end I was blind to some of the harsh realities of being different. Protected by the brilliant friendships I forged in my first year, I was able to fend off ignorant bigots with relative ease. Despite the daily  bullying and name calling, I loved school and was never really one to moan about my teachers - on the whole they did their job with a smile. 

But there was you, Mr H. Your English lessons in my third year - today's year 9 - were a haven of literary enlightenment and discussion. I understood what it meant to have a passion for a subject. We sat enthralled as you regaled us with tales of motorbike accidents which explained your limp, and explored the minutia of novel themes and characters. We experienced moments of fear that rendered us static in our seats with a voice so explosive, students across the building knew who was getting told off and for which misdemeanours. We couldn't comprehend how you were really married to the really strict RE teacher because she was so scary and you were so cool.

I think I really learnt sarcasm from you. Which is great as it has regularly made an appearance in my own classrooms over the years (it's okay, only to the ones who can cope with it, and also readily dole it out in massive proportions themselves). I also learnt how to enjoy my lessons in your classes - there was always a hub of activity which we were always engaged in; so much so that we never complained we were bored. I know there were collective sighs of disappointment when the bell rang. Sound too good to be true? Well, maybe. A few decades later and sitting on the other side of the teacher's desk may have rose-coloured the past. But I remember looking forward to my English lessons and deciding, at the end of that year, that I wanted to be an English teacher. 

Your lessons left me marvellous school memories, alongside the wonderful Mr T. - my Head of Year - who took time out to ease the sad days of a tearful, embarrassed child after days of racist name calling had taken its toll...again. His patience and understanding have definitely played a part in my own attitude towards students that need a little extra time. I was truly saddened when I learned of his passing, not long after we left the school gates for sixth form college.

It's hard to pinpoint a specific novel that changed my life - although I think that honour had to go to my fourth year teacher who made me read masses of To Kill A Mockingbird out loud every lesson. But I can definitely remember the days that I laughed so much in English lessons, that I felt pride in my own writing, and was encouraged to explore creatively.

There's a website now that the young uns use called Rate My Teacher (no prizes for guessing what goes on there!), and if the internet had been invented for public use back in 1985 I would have quoted Einstein: "It is the supreme art of a teacher to awaken joy in creative expression and knowledge...and you certainly did Mr H, so I thank you."