Wednesday, 15 October 2014

Inspiration.

Following the visit of my Grand-daughter who is just beginning her teaching career and who is so enthusiastic about it all, I got to thinking about what is important in teaching.   And I came to the conclusion that the most important quality a teacher can bring to her pupils is to be inspirational.

I would have thought that in these days of social networking, where every teenager I meet seems oblivious to the world around them as they walk down the street fiddling with their telephone/i-pad/whatever, to be an inspiration to your class, in whatever subject, is even more important.

I sat and thought about my own school days.   My Junior School teacher, Miss Kirkbride - long past retirement age but kept on because it was wartime - was in many ways a good teacher (even if she did sit in your place while you stood beside her when she marked your 'sums', so that she could slap your legs if you got one wrong).  I remember her once running a project during the Summer term when we had to collect labels from around the world - this in war time remember.  Then she mounted a map of the world and we marked where Fray Bentos Corned Beef came from, where peaches came from.  It definitely sparked off my interest in Geography, which has never left me.

In Grammar school my English teacher, Miss Ryder, a quiet, unassuming lady inspired me from day one.   When I got my homework back I could see at a glance that she had read through my essay and had marked everything that needed marking - every punctuation and spelling mistake but also (more importantly) she would comment on anything she thought was interesting, or she would expand on what I had said. This also applied to Mrs Lucas, our History teacher - being the only married member of staff and also being (in our eyes) terribly glamorous, we clung on to her every word.   But again, she took our History essays seriously and when they were returned to us after marking she would have struck up a dialogue.  I always hated Science - I can't blame Miss Judge, our teacher, but she certainly didn't help.   For a start  we had never had gas in our village so I was pretty scared of a Bunsen burner, but she never attempted to calm my fears.  I vividly remember one homework where she showed us how to do some scientific equations and then gave us ten to do at home.   I hadn't understood at all.   She just marked all ten wrong and we carried on with the next lesson - no effort was made to keep us back and go through it with us (I know I was not the only one who couldn't do them).

If a teacher is an inspiration to the class then some of the discipline problems will disappear because each pupil knows you are interested in them.   It is the quality all teachers should aspire to in my opinion.   In Inner City areas many of our pupils come from homes which are substandard, often they live in family groups which are less than perfect too. (I am not saying that these two things only apply to inner cities).   But if they are to climb out of, or rise above, things like this they need the help of good teachers.

A lovely letter in today's Times underlines this.   A lady in Oxfordshire writes of a child in an East end of London school who had at last been moved into a high rise block of flats from very substandard housing.   Here is her letter:
'We have a lavatory - in a bathroom - which is just for us, me and my mum and dad.   I go to bed in a room which is mine, just for me.   I looked out of the window and all I could see was fairyland.'

When I started teacher training our Education Tutor (who shall be nameless) asked us all to write an essay telling her about what we had done in our lives so far.   This was the first essay of our training.   They were returned to us about six weeks later - there wasn't a single mark on any of them apart from a C at the end of every one - it is obvious she had never read them.   A lack-lustre woman, no good at teaching or marking, and certainly no inspiration to anyone.

14 comments:

Frugal in Derbyshire said...

It is true that you never forget a good teacher. I, like you, can remember the teachers that inspired me and the odd one that was shockingly awful, come to that.

mrsnesbitt said...

So agree Pat. I had a rant the other morning when some political party said they were going to improve teachers!!!!!!!! Why can't they leave them to get on with teaching - endless money is taken away and channelled into "trends" and "initiatives" - what goes around comes around!

Em Parkinson said...

We are so lucky with our creature comforts now! I remember my maths teacher who looked like Micky Dolenz from The Monkeys and wore the most TERRIBLE clothes in the mid 1970's; bri-nylon smocks over a dreary skirt. However, she was a brilliant teacher and made me love maths at the time.

Gwil W said...

I remember taking labels to school. The teacher stuck them on a map of the world. As a result of that I became keen on philately. Collecting stamps in packets of a 100 at a time. And even sending away for approvals. These were advertised in several children's comics. I remember in one book of approvals there were lots of strange and colourful birds and triangular shaped stamps. Another era it seems now.

Crafty Green Poet said...

You're right all the best teachers are inspirational. I think accuracy in what you're teaching is just as important in many ways

Joanne Noragon said...

I remember many of my teachers, some whose classes I did poorly with. I even remember one who demanded I remove my trashy novel from its brown paper cover and display it to the class. It was Mark Twain, Life on the Mississippi. I cannot remember how I did in his biology class.

Heather said...

It sounds as if your Education Tutor was definitely in the wrong job. I think my Maths teacher is my most memorable one. He was German and came to England with his wife, either just before the war or just after. He was so patient and even managed to explain the horrors of Maths to me.

Cro Magnon said...

I only taught at 2 different schools (both private), but at each one there was one specific teacher who always had a throng of kids attached. Both these teachers were adored by the children, and everywhere they went they had a crowd following close behind. They had 'something' the other teachers didn't.

Mac n' Janet said...

You're so right about what makes a good teacher, enthusiasm and interest in what they're doing. At the college level I did a math class where I understood next to nothing and I wasn't the only one. At the end of the class we were allowed to critique the professor and I wrote that if the objective of the class was to finish the book then he'd done his job, but if it was to understand the math then he'd failed.

jinxxxygirl said...

I think i remember the teachers who i felt 'saw me'. Who noticed me as an individual. Thats not easy to do with a classroom full of students. Hugs!deb

angryparsnip said...

Your post today is inspiring and sad at the same time.
I remember growing up in Tucson and the great education I received.
Not so with today children. The school districts have rendered the teachers obsolete by making them teach to the test only. Art, music and PE classes gone, no money. Parents who speak no English only yell and complain that their children are not passing to the next grade. Huge drop out rate.
It is just so sad.
I adored going to school. History, geography, English, government whole new world opened up. Gone are the art, music or shop classes.
All lost because American is so afraid of not being PC enough.
Our children are being short changed.

cheers, parsnip

The Weaver of Grass said...

Aren't we all of one mind, but also aren't we maybe all of the same generation? Today's generation just seem to have different priorities. Thanks for joining in.

Maureen @ Josephina Ballerina said...

Hi Pat,
When I was just 6 years old, the teacher screamed at me for not making a Mother's Day card the way all the other students were -by copying hers exactly. (Mine was a riot of color and different kinds of flowers instead of just one being orange tulip.) She screamed at me to get it out of her sight. I never liked school again after that.

thelma said...

Still have a guilty conscience about my kindergarten teacher, she seemed to have had a lot of nervous breakdowns. Sure it was my imagination though....