Baggy Trousers

Who was your most influential teacher at school? I think mine was an English teacher…

Or: The one in which I get all nostalgic for school. Sorry. This won’t last long.

I know it’s because I went back to Suffolk the other day, and also because lately I seem to fail spectacularly whenever it comes to meeting up with people from school, but my brain keeps flashing up memories of school.

Today, I was driving along and Sting started singing ‘Don’t Stand So Close To Me’. Those of you under the age of20 will know it as ‘that one Rachel sang on Glee when she had a crush on Mr Shu’.

Suddenly I’m catapulted back to being about 14 and sitting in assembly. Assemblies at my school were a big thing. OfSted had been in and told the school off for only having 1 assembly a week, and for the fact they had zero religious content, or hymns, or anything really. So, to remedy this, the English teacher Mr O’Connell was standing in front of us taking the assembly. He was telling us about a friend he had at teacher training college in Sheffield (you need to know at this point, that Mr O’Connell was, to schoolkids from a sleepy Suffolk Market town, a gritty northerner with a pale complexion, and weathered skin, a northern accent and a VERY loud voice).

Anyway, I’m sure the point of his assembly was probably about judging people. Or perhaps it was career advice. It could have been about the correct consistency for fondant icing for all we knew. He’d just told us he was best friends with Sting before he was famous – they’d been friends at teacher-training college. And, so to most of us, this made him one step away from royalty.

It wasn’t just this that made him a really good teacher. As he taught us ‘Our Day Out’ by Willy Russell, those of us that were listening and reading between the lines could see that he was comparing it to our school and some of our teachers. He had just the right balance of encouragement and fear too. And as a result, English quickly became my favourite subject.

He wasn’t the only teacher to make a big impression on us. There was our maths teacher Mr Evans, who had a masterly command of writing equations upside down on the overhead projector, and access to an infinite number of beige suits. And then there was Mr Lloyd who decided to saw his own thumb off to make our woodward lesson more interesting one Wednesday afternoon. There was the semi-retired Mr Knight who’d been told to teach RE instead of woodwork (his actual subject), and set about the most un-PC tour of Judaism you could ever imagine. And then there was the morris-dancing history teacher Mr Clarke, who taught us the history of medicing using Blackadder episodes, and the history of the Irish ‘troubles’ via an impressive impression of the Rev. Ian Paisley.

The connection is this though: they all taught you about life and about yourself rather than just the subject (in some cases, they barely touched the subject written on the door to their room!). Think back to the teachers who influenced you the most, and I bet you’ll find the same.

Oh, and in case you’re wondering, yes there was an influential music teacher or two. One in particular gets a mention here.

About this entry