I thought it would be nice to say a little thank you to the good ones. I’ve had some absolutely shocking teachers in my time (my secondary English teacher laughed in my face when I signed up for A level lit) but some absolute gems. I will share the good, the bad and the ridiculous. I think the collection sums up the quirks, spirals and highlights of education!
From Guyana so an instant hit with my educationally suspicious West Indian father, this woman was amazing. I had a reading age of 10 at 5 and she would take me out of class reading to let me read the Hobbit out loud to her. She was the kindest lady on the planet and I don’t remember her with anything but a smile on her face.
Now, if you want to be the most cool of all the Headteachers, you have to top this guy. He would rock up to assembly, turn off the projector and whip out his guitar to share his own handwritten musical delights. He organised a local Beatle-athon with the other local primary schools, as we went head to head with one another, singing a heady mix of the Liverpool’s finest. He had the hairiest knuckles I have ever seen in my life.
Mainly a brilliant man for tolerating me in his maths classroom for three years. I hated maths; I didn’t see the point and as a result would find ways to entertain myself through the 70 minutes of hell on a Thursday afternoon. My favourite would be ‘pack up,’ where you shook your tin pencil case 30 minutes before the end of the lesson and then sat back to view your own handiwork as the sheep-like fellow classmates responded robotically to the sound by packing away. I know- I was an absolute delight. He was 23 and had a beard-which I still don’t understand- and looked a little like a garden gnome in a bad mood. I’d be in a bad mood if I had to teach maths all day. Why do we call it maths instead of math like the Americans? Oh, who cares. It makes my eyes bleed (sorry maths!)
Yes yes, we called her bird-smell. She wore socks with sandals and had clearly been to ‘stereotypical dress and behaviour for the Spinster Teacher today.’ She was my first English teacher and she threatened to destroy the English language, one monotonous lesson at a time. For an entire term, we came into the room, sat down and opened our play books, and read Romeo and Juliet out loud. No book work. I saw her in Sainsbury ‘swhen I went home before Christmas and she was wearing sandals. With socks.
We called her big bird. She was SIX FOOT SIX without heels, had specs like Deidre Rashid (RIP) and wore lilac eyeshadow. The boys once smashed the window next to her desk at break, in November, and she didn’t notice until last lesson. She didn’t know what planet we, her or anyone else was and her french lessons were bedlam.
One in a long line of teachers who had the patience with me to notice a glimmer of a nice child underneath all of the indifference and hostility. She did the whole cigarette in a glass with cotton wool thing and blew me away. She listened when I asked very quietly to be moved from my tutor group because a girl had punched me in the face. I liked Mrs Ball.
Mr Marshall was a gently spoken man, with giant hands. He taught Art, and I produced the one piece of artwork that I have ever been proud to bring home. He never raised his voice in the classroom and one day, a girl wet herself on her stool rather than miss part of his class (I know- we were thirteen. No excuse). One day, a rumour started floating about that he had pushed a boy in my year up the wall by his throat. Dragged along by the hysteria that always comes with a Chinese whisper, we all sat down in the car park to protest. I don’t remember much about protesting, other than sharing my Iced Gems with the girl next to me. After being shouted at by Big Bird at the end of lunch, I tentatively went to my Art lesson. Mr Marshall had been replaced by a supply teacher and didn’t come in for two days after that.
This guy looked like the man from Red Dwarf. Rimmer. He is quite possibly the most angry man that I have ever met in my life. Looking back with my teacher head on, he couldn’t manage the behaviour and so all I remember about Humanities is watching the film about the Amish people and Hitler. To an extent, I hold him somewhat responsible for the amount of work I had to put in to bring myself up to standard when delivering historical context. Bar the Holocaust, I had absolutely no idea what had happened in any place at any time. It didn’t help that the same boys that broke Mrs Cooley’s window would regularly turn all of the furniture upside down and proceed as normal as though everything was as it should be. And affectionately called him Wriggles. All the time. The only thing I remember about that classroom was that we always had the television!
Chuck was his name, outbursts were his game. He now works as a volunteer, taking old folk (namely my Nanna) to their day group of choice. Previously, he was best known for teaching stuff about chemicals, his grey ponytail leftover from the sixties, and throwing a pot of pens at me once because I got up to open the window whilst he was talking. He left the room for ten minutes, came back in with a brew and carried on where he had left off.
Mr Kershaw’s cooler, more collected other half. A psychology teacher, she unsuccessfully (my fault, not hers) kept me at the Sixth form when it was quite apparent that I could no longer fathom out any direction for myself. She would call my Mum at exactly 8.46am when my backside had not made it to my lesson and then sat through several meetings with my then divorcing parents to try to get me to buy back in to my education. When I received my place at University, I sent her an email saying thank you and telling her that I had finally figured it out. Her son was my boyfriend for two whole days when we were eleven, and I got to go to a teacher’s house- the entire house was laden with books. That is my goal- to live in a house as laden as Miss Andrews’ house.
Fast forward to University, and this guy knows EVERYTHING. His class was where I discovered autobiographies including my favourite book of all time, The Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius by Dave Eggers. We studied the concept of self, having a sense of self and building an identity. Andy conducts the Theory of Literature module which really opened my eyes to the motives of literature.
I feel bad for not remembering Keith’s name. He lectured and held the seminars for an American Literature module which is possibly the most practically useless but most enjoyable part of my degree, alongside film adaptation. He introduced me to Emily Dickinson by describing her as ‘someone who attempted to reach out on to the other side for us so that we may know what death would be like. Death in reality is actually pretty f***ing boring.’ He was Irish and would digress on such a regular basis that I lost track of what was or was not on the syllabus. They’re the best kind.
Victoria was my least favourite of the two PGCE coordinators. She talked about grammar and sensible stuff, whilst Rachel the drama side of things simply hugged everyone and talked candidly about how tough it was out there. I didn’t want to think about the fact that I had been (and still on occasion take part in) comma splicing my entire life and had absolutely no idea what a prepositional preconjective personal imperative pronoun was. Why isn’t it enough that I really like books? But Victoria is a wonderful teacher because of her neverending knowledge. I have such admiration for an academic and once we realised that she was actually really rather lovely and it was simply that Rachel just liked to hug everyone that we had overlooked her and should probably not veer away from all the non hugging academia that we would really rely on to get us through and give us confidence. It is Victoria that I have to thank for keeping me going through what was a very difficult year and Victoria who has opened up opportunities to me since my completion of the course. Thankfully, she was substituted with the lovely Andrew Evans when I decided to spend four hours arguing in floods of tears that yes yes, I really did want to quit the course a month before the end and no, no, no, I definitely DO NOT want to be a teacher. I will always be grateful for a place on my course at Warwick- In didn’t think I stood a chance in hell next to everyone else there.
This lovely lady was my professional mentor during my PGCE year. She was the epitome of cool, immaculately dressed and used to glide around the corridors, smiling and speaking with everyone. I’m not sure I ever really worked out how Ann felt about me, but that was simply because of how wonderfully professional she always was, and how she found humour in everything to lighten the day. The first time she watched me teach, she pulled it to shreds and I was heartbroken. I had set out to impress her; that was the issue, she opened her feedback with- I had not put the children at the centre of it all. She taught me more in a very short space of time than I have ever learned from another teacher and I still implement a lot of the ideas I took from that in my day-to-day teaching.
This woman is an utter legend. Her brain works in exactly the same way as mine, only hers is much bigger and more impressive. We would collaboratively teach a lot during my training year and she worked in a very kinesthetic way with the children- Key Stage 3 were mesmerised when she taught. She never shouts, she teaches (as I often find myself) in a flurry of chaos and colour and we used to have long chats about autonomy of teachers and the concept that whilst the end point is still the same for everyone, that we must keep hold of our own approach to make the journey quite personal for the students and us.
I’d like to add to this from time to time- I think it is a nice process to reflect on where you have taken your teacherisms from. Teaching is a bit like parenting- we know how we want to be perceived and also how we do not want to deliver lessons. Hope you found it mildly entertaining for a lazy Easter afternoon!