Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Let's Play I Remember - Teachers

I've been trying to remember some of the teachers who made a mark on me today. It's Trish's fault. She wrote a post about her favourite teacher and suggested we do the same. Her Miss Kavanagh sounded a right character with a bold and accurate view of adolescent motivating forces - money.

None of my teachers ever tried to bribe us or reward us financially for working (more's the pity), but they left their mark in other ways. One, Mr Benson, the chemistry teacher used to pick his nose in class and stuff it behind his tie, for future study perhaps? One wonders at the whole microbiological eco-system that must have resided within the silk (or polyester) threads. Amazingly, he got me through my chemistry 'O'Level and then suggested I do 'A'Level. I felt I'd come to the end of my natural relationship with hydrochloric acid, that passing my 'O'Level had been a fluke and that I wouldn't tempt fate with further study.

Going back to primary school, there was Mr Nunn whose daughter ran off with the husband of a friend of my mother's, had a baby by him then kicked him out whereupon he went back to the family home to be consigned to the attic. There was whistle-twirling Mr Whisby who terrified everyone because he had a treacherous streak - he'd come over all nice and pally and then catch you out admitting to some misdemeanour.

On to comprehensive education and I had Mr Harris, the history teacher, who was a right laugh but whose lessons consisted of reams and reams of dictation. There was Miss West who told my mother (a geography teacher) that I was a natural geographer. You've never heard my mother laugh more like a drain than at that moment. It's nice to have the confidence of one's parents as one grows up... There were two other geography teachers - Mr Pendlebury, the archetypal geographer - huge, bearded, passionate about his subject, and Mr Deery who was a dead ringer for Hazell, a tv cop from ITV and all the girls had a crush on him. I believe one finally got him...

Onto the heady heights of university, and my favourite lecturer was Sir Anthony Parsons, former British Ambassador to Iran. He used to tell us fabulous tales of life under the Shah and I got my best ever mark in Finals on his paper. It was very easy to achieve, you just had to learn off by heart his more gripping accounts.

But was there a teacher who inspired me to become the person I am today? The sort who got the Dead Poet's Society all fired up? I think teachers that remarkable are few and far between, and the most we can hope for is to go through our education without arousing the wrath and spite of some crazy manic-depressive who crushes our desire to learn for life.

I slunk through school counting the days before I could leave, but I suppose the teachers who made it more bearable were the music teachers Mr Willis and Miss Hayward. Their enthusiasm and passion for their subject resulted in our comp putting on operas, musicals, concerts, and participating in radio shows, choir competitions both in Stratford and the International Eisteddfod, Llangollen, the Royal Albert Hall, and Snape, The Maltings. Looking back, they were amazing experiences and although we took them for granted then, I can now appreciate just how dedicated and inspired they were, trying to get the best out of us lumpy teens, and succeeding.

I suppose their legacy is that you can enjoy music (or anything else) whatever your level as long as you work hard to achieve the most out of what you're doing.

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