#12JoysofTeaching – Day 2

There’s a nice thread of positivity going on Twitter at the moment, tagged the #12joysofteaching, and brainchild of Claire Lotriet. There are daily prompts; today’s is inspiring, memorable teachers. I couldn’t squeeze that into 140 characters, so here are mine.

It is impossible, of course, to choose just one. I was very fortunate to have a great set of teachers, almost all of whom I remember very fondly. Consequently I feel guilty just writing this post because they all deserve a mention, really. However, I can’t go on listing everyone who taught me from Kindergarten upwards because, really, I am very busy, so I have narrowed it down to four.

First of all, my Y4 and Y6 teacher, Alison Hills. She joined partway through Y4; I think she was newly qualified, and she picked up a class of snivelling girls who had adored their old Y4 teacher and really didn’t want her to leave, which must have been a mission. She was always very positive and kind but also firm, and she had a way about her that made you want to be good, just so she’d be proud. I think that’s quite a gift.

Secondly, my occasional secondary school PE teacher and sixth form tutor, Sarah Spender. I cannot ever imagine her being in a bad mood. She always had something positive to say, even when I was sneaking in late (I lived 10 minutes walk from school but was probably late 90% of the time). She just seemed to have boundless enthusiasm and she was still emanating this at our 10 year reunion. I do think of her when I am in one of my terminator moods, and try to find a little joy to spread.

Thirdly, my Latin teacher, Linda Watson (then Mrs Watson, now Dr Watson). She had very high expectations, and I did not regularly meet them. She was relentless in her demands and I was convinced she despised me, though I wonder now if I was just very frustrating because I wasn’t coming up with the goods. I was a very lazy sixth former. She taught me the value of hard work and plugging away: Latin ended up being my highest grade at A-level and that was because I worked harder for her than anybody else. She wouldn’t have had it any other way. Once she banned me from going on a history trip because I owed her a translation. That was a hard lesson but an extremely valuable one.

Finally, my A-level History teacher, Richard Wilkin. I loved all my History teachers (of course): Michael Vale, and Caron Chapman who taught me for GCSE and had the most awesome sarcastic sense of humour, but Mr Wilkin is the one I think of most often. I don’t think he was very impressed with me. I sometimes imagine the look of abject horror that I think would cross his face if he was to find out I was now teaching History, if he could remember me , anyway….I was not a good A-level student, in case that wasn’t already clear.

Yet, his are the phrases and metaphors and quirks that I most often see popping up in my own practice. He had this thing about Lenin as a surfer, riding to power on a massive wave of popular support. I really got this. I adapted it right through from Tito in my undergrad finals to Mussolini last week with Y12. He also once talked about guinea pig ranching: “Herds of guinea pigs,” he said, waving his hands expansively,”spreading out across the Plains.” I never quite got the point of that. But he taught me that quirks and weird metaphors stick in student brains (even the ones that aren’t useful). It was also his side of the A-level course that inspired me to choose history, and informed my choice of course at university. It is his method of marking essays that I still use today (at least I assume it was his…now I wonder if it might have just been departmental policy). I still remember the creeping dread when he set us that first essay in Y12 and it had the word “exacerbated” in it and he just left us to it and we were all worried we’d written about the wrong thing; I thought of it last week when I set my Y13s an essay title with the word “advocated” in it.

Google reveals that Mr Wilkin is enjoying his second headship at a Catholic school in Essex, but it isn’t turning up anything on any of the others. I hope they’re all well, anyway.

This is definitely over 140 characters! I love a bit of nostalgia, puts me right in the Christmas mood.

Edit. I can’t miss out Mr Downey. Used to knock 10% off our essay marks if we didn’t hand a plan in with the essay. I hated it until I got to uni and realised the invaluable skill he had taught me – none of my friends knew how to write an essay plan.

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