I am sure that everyone agrees that teaching is an important profession. But also that the art of teaching isn’t easy.
I was by no means a model pupil, but looking back I do think I can thank my favourite teachers for helping me get this far.
I started thinking about my own schooldays recently when my foundation year daughter promptly burst into tears when saying goodbye to her form teacher.
It was only half term but to her young, impressionable mind the realisation that her favourite, her only, teacher would be absent for a whole six school days was unbearable. She sobbed for much of the walk home.
Half term was upon us. We’d planned a mix of academic homework, rest and play with a dash of cultural enlightenment. But all she cared about was not seeing Miss Smith (named changed for personal reasons) and how would she cope?
A positive role model
Since the new academic year began in September my daughter has spent more time under Miss Smith’s influence than under mine. My partner and I might be bringing our daughter up but much of her personal development, not to mention her academic development, will be the responsibility of her teacher.
I’m not suggesting that as parents we were relegated to second place, but it was apparent that already Miss Smith was having a significant impact on my child’s cognitive and personal development.
My partner and I were relieved. Young children are very impressionable and we wanted our daughter, as a minimum, to like and ideally want to learn from her teacher. These early educational experiences are likely to remain, at least on a subconscious level with her for the rest of her life. We wanted them to be positive, including the frequent visits to the ‘time out’ carpet!
We can all remember a bad teacher. I won’t name and shame mine as I expect my opinions are either biased, personal or both.
Perhaps more positively we can all remember a good teacher. One who has helped developed our knowledge and shaped our characteristics, helping us to become a responsible, productive and socially aware member of society.
What makes a good teacher a great teacher?
I believe that a good teacher is a teacher who cares about the individual children in their classroom. With large classes this has become increasingly more difficult but evidence suggests that it is not impossible – Miss Smith is lucky to be supported by a host of classroom assistants.
It helps, too, if the teacher is interested in their subject and can bring it to life with their own enthusiasm. This will engage students, who will in turn develop a thirst for learning, encouraging them to deepen their knowledge and understanding. Even I have learned my phonics, thanks Miss Smith!
My schoolday memories
I enjoyed my infant schooling but apart from learning to read and write and gain a good knowledge of the Isle of Wight I can’t remember too much. I enjoyed parent-free holidays there with school.
From middle school, my educational memories began to shift from experience to people. Three out of the four years I spent at middle school were the fondest I have with regards to academic achievement.
I am sure that it is no coincidence that I can still name many of the teachers that made a significant mark on the development of my pre-teen mind. Academic subjects suddenly came to life, springing from the pages of dog-eared text books, often read upside down, when discussed by the teaching staff, many fresh from Teacher Training College.
I might have wanted to be Miss Davenport who moved from trainee to fully trained teacher whilst in my presence but I also hung to every word that the experienced Mr Teader spoke. And to this day I can still remember the lesson Mr Crittenden, a former RAF Officer, gave on the importance of everybody’s place in society that he brilliantly illustrated with baked bean cans.
When I moved to secondary school I worked hard. I had to. Academia didn’t come easy. I had to apply myself and balance a life consumed by sport.
However, I am not too proud to admit that I’d do almost anything for the good teachers. Work that little bit harder. Listen that little bit more intently. Through my teenage eyes my teachers became the friends that I didn’t always find amongst my peers.
Some of my favourite teachers implanted not only the curriculum into me but some of their own personalities, principles and philosophies.
I found them simply inspirational and I had a thirst for their knowledge and wisdom. My love of sport continued throughout my early teens thanks to Miss Pike. I can trace my continued interest in history to Miss Carter and Miss Ward, whilst Miss Dix and Mrs Prue are responsible for my early positive cooking experiences. I am not sure what Miss Clarke would make of my writing ability other than thank Microsoft for inventing spellcheck!
All of these teachers imparted valuable life lessons into my younger self that continue to influence today. Aristotle, the Greek philosopher and scientist (384-322 BCE) is not totally wrong when he wrote that: “Those who educate children well are more honoured than they who produce them; for these only gave them life, those art of living well.”
I do not have a favourite teacher. Instead I have those I have named who have collectively have given me the foundations of ability and the confidence that has allowed me to learn about making the right choices and how to identify the dangers within our troubled world.