Monday, August 22, 2011

When You Were Small - The Teacher

It's been a little while since I've done a post as part of the 'When you were small' series, and it's not because I don't enjoy doing them, because I absolutely do, and more importantly, I love hearing back everyone's comments.

Anyone who has been following this series knows we have looked at first love, favourite toy, most important childhood memory, chores, etc, the list as I've said before is pretty endless.  There are lots of things and people which influence our childhood, but sometimes we forget one element which makes up a great part of our development, and that is going to school, and the teachers we meet there.

In Ireland we have primary school from about the age of 4/5 up to around 12.  After that we have secondary, which brings us up to university entry level.  When I think about primary school, for the most part my memories are all good ones.  I mean the classrooms were overcrowded, in my case accommodating two class groups together, for example 5th & 6th class.  I don't remember any teacher in particular from this time, although no doubt I should, as overall, I had a liking for school and that just doesn't happen by accident.

My hubby on the other hand, has a very firm memory of a primary school teacher, one whom he had for a number of years, Mr Moran.  I know this seems like a daft thing to say, as I am not talking about myself, but I know Mr Moran had a huge positive influence on my partner and in particular his love of books.  From what I have gathered over the years, one of Mr Moran qualities, was his realisation that all children have different needs, which was why he had plenty of time for sport, for classes talking about other cultures, for setting individual goals, and for story time.  Mr Moran it would seem from my secondhand knowledge, was a pretty brilliant story teller.  My hubby is dyslexic, and severely so.  A condition which wasn't diagnosed for him until well into adult life.  Nonetheless, when Mr Moran read out a story in class, he opened up a world of fantasy for all the children, those who could read easily, and those perhaps who could not.  This love was planted in my partner head, despite obvious reading difficulties, which meant that in later life, when there was a greater understanding of his condition, for the most part despite his early difficulties, he had an immense love for books and the stories within them.

I think I could write forever about teachers, and how they can influence you, because I do have two very distinct memories myself, both of which have stayed in my brain for a very long time, when believe me, an awful lot of other stuff has not.

The first was a temporary teacher we had in 1st year in secondary.  I don't remember her name, but I do remember that she was very young, and very petite, neither of which are of any relevance in themselves.  The part that is relevant however is how during her time teaching us history, we created a class project on Egypt.  I remember it so vividly, studying and copying the hieroglyphics onto large poster pages, how wonderful the project looked when it was put up as an exhibit in the classroom, and others students and teachers came to visit it.  I think right there, if the seeds had not been planted before, I realised how you could take something from your head and put it out there in a real and different way, and how working with others, sometimes you could create so much more.  The second memory I have is also of an History Teacher, but he was an English Teacher too.  After my 3rd year in secondly, due to family circumstances at the grand old age of 15, I needed to go out and get a real job.  The following year I enrolled in night classes to do my Leaving Certificate, our final exam before college entry.  Because the classes were at night, I met a great group of fellow classmates, many of them older than I, but I also met this teacher who has had a huge influence on my life.

Now I need to apologise here, because even though I know how important he was to me, I cannot remember his name.  This is not a slight on him, I am hopeless with names in general.  Anyhow (I knew I would have to get my fav crutch word in eventually), he was a very special man.  He opened up the world of English to me in a way which no one else had done.  I began to get excited about poetry, to understand Shakespeare, the tragedy of life, the beauty in a single word, I found meaning beyond the straight forward story within the front and back cover of a book, I learned about the layers in the creation of the written word, I learned to go beyond loving to read, I learned to love the language.  At the end of this post is an extract from notes in my English journal, ones he dictated to us on the very first evening of our studies, in fact they are the only words he ever dictated to us, but I understand why he wanted to impress them from the beginning.  I still have my journal from that time, I will keep it always.

Phew!  That was a long one.  I suppose what I'm saying is, teachers hold a special part of our formation, we often take them for granted, especially the good ones, and perhaps their influence is often not appreciated, but one thing I am certain of, their influence will never be forgotten.

If any of you have your own teacher memories, you can share them below by writing a comment.  I don't mind how long the comments are, the length and content are entirely up to you.

For other post in this series - check out http://tinyurl.com/626pkrb

Extract from my Leaving Cert English Notes:

I am doing Leaving Cert English literature, in the course of the year, I shall be exposing myself to a drama, an imaginative novel, and some poems.  I shall be asked to respond to the vision of the writer.  No two people can have the same response.  For instance, there is only one response to the question "What does two and two total?", but literature is an inexact science, and so there is not one answer, but as many as there are readers.

I am unique, I am as unique as my fingerprints, so that I see, feel things in an unique way.  When it comes to the character in a play, or the character in a novel, or a poet's feelings, I can never fully identify.  But I can observe with care the other person, and then transfer myself to his or her situation, and try to listen to my feelings there.


  1. Well... I remember my 10th grade Biology "student teacher"... I can't remember her name, but what I do remember is that all the guys would jockey for position to be seated front and center because we were sure to get a peek at her stocking tops and garters (you can tell I'm old) when she sat on a stool in front of the class to lecture.

  2. I was educated by the Cluny nuns when living in Dublin and by corporal punishment when In Belfast. Enough said on my formal education I think.

  3. Ah Mark - boys will be boys!

    I get the picture alright Caren - sadly, many others will get it too! My Mother had no time for the nuns (something to do with her childhood!), so I never did encounter the religious method of teaching!

  4. Louise you left school at 15?? So young and yet you managed to go back and finish. Tough going for you.

    Teachers are so important, I wonder if they fully understand this.

    Your LC notes are just fab! Defo post more of them here!

  5. Wonderful post! Brilliant memories of the second, nameless, teacher - he sounds like an absolute star.
    I shall remember an English teacher, Mr Dobbin, with fondness all my life, not particularly because of what he taught but because he made me think I was clever. I still can't pin down how he did it, but he did, and I think I'll always feel grateful to him for that.

  6. Thanks Michelle - the notes are from my fab teacher's dictation, but I smiled today looking through them. He wrote lovely comments about me, which kind of leads into your point Titus. He believed in me, and I guess Mr Dobbin did the same for you! :)

  7. Good for you finishing your Leaving Cert at night, it happened a lot.
    I was convent educated too but most of my memories were positive ones, thankfully. I remember a music teacher, male, who dedicated himself to teaching us drama. To this day, I know nearly every show tune.
    I remember a young English teacher saying to me when I was 14 that I had a peculiar style of writing that made her laugh,that it could possibly be developed into something.
    Of course, I didnt listen to her and have only returned to writing 30 years later.

  8. Thanks Brigid - Gosh your story sounds a little like mine - I wrote in my teens then stopped only to return to it about 4 years ago. Life got in the way I suppose. Your music teacher sounds great - do you still do drama?

  9. My early years in school were spent in a Christian Brother's school, so my memories - like Caren's - aren't the best. Lots of nasty old men hammering young kids with sticks. However, there was one beacon of light, a teacher we had for both 5th and 6th Standard, named Mr. Upton. His gentleness and love of teaching just about did away with all the bad memories from the previous years.

  10. great post... I had the most fantastic national school teacher from 2nd to 6th class and I know she had a huge influence on me.. from my love of Irish language (altho I have forgotten most) to poetry and 'creative writing'. Her name was Mrs McGloughlin... wherever she is - THANK YOU MRS MCG. I was a very lucky girl.
    Secondary ed was with the Presentation Sisters and was largely a very positive experience. I loved school and again I was very lucky... our principle was a strong, fair and v intelligent nun called Sr Assumpta.
    Both teachers great female role models!
    Thanks Louise - you really got me thinking

  11. Thanks Derek - The power of one! Good to think that one good teacher can take so much of the bad stuff away.

    Gosh Barbara, 4 years with the one teacher, a bit like my hubby with Mr Moran! Sounds like you have some great memories - TG for the MRS MCG's of this world!

  12. Just lost a dear teacher of mine. He was my high school Chemistry teacher and he was one of a kind. We all called him Father Hake. He had a way of teaching Chemistry that kept us all laughing. The world is a little lonelier without him! RIP Father Hake!

  13. He sounds like he was a magical person Laura!

  14. Great to see positive and happy memories of school days.
    And thats as it should be. The reality for me is that my happiest memory is walking out the gate on the last day of my Inter. Cert.
    Strangely enough for someone who started school, at 4 years of age, 50 years ago I can remember the names of 90% of my teachers both lay and religious.
    But then traumatic events (like monsters to kids)remain indelibly etched in the human mind.
    You can imagine how happy it made me to see my own children enjoy their schooldays in a way that I never would have thought was possible.

  15. Badness Joe has a way of marking itself with unforgetable clarify no matter where it is found. Your children are lucky, as many others are and where, and this good fortune is appreciated no where better, than by the people who traveled a different path. I hope this was okay to say. X Louise

  16. Great post Louise, exciting to read. Thanks you.
    I had two special teachers in primary, the first in 3rd class, Miss Kelly & the 2nd teacher in 6th class, Sr. Ailbe. They were kind & loving women & I remember them for that. I was lucky enough to be able to tell the first, who I met accidentally, how much she had meant to me a few years ago. Before Sr. Ailbe died I wrote to her and told her the difference she had made in my young life. I still love these two women & will always cherish their love & kindness in my life.
    Good teachers make such a difference.

  17. An excellent post. Like you, I could go on for ever about teachers I knew and the effects they had, but in general what I think is that the ones who had the most and the most lasting positive influence on me were those with "an ax to grind, a passion that was perhaps even a bit quirky - not the sort that is fashionable today.

  18. Both those teachers sound wonderful irishminx - and really great that you got the opportunity to share how you felt with both of them.

    Hmmm, Dave, quirky, a subjective word but kinda get what u might mean, although not sure someone with an ax to grind, unless it's to change the world or something is necessiarily a good thing.

  19. In third grade I had a teacher who introduced us to Poetry! Never forgot it. We read aloud,recited
    even wrote our own. I have " The Singing World"
    to this day. I wish I had the mimeographed collection she handed out as extra in class!

  20. Louise,

    I really loved this post and all the good memories it brought back. I was very fortunate in that I had wonderful teachers throughout school. I had to work harder at spelling and reading, but thanks to a lot of support from my teachers I was able to become a writer, editor and book reviewer - among various other things. It just shows what a huge difference a good teacher or teachers can make. I remember all my primary school teachers by name still, but only the names of my English teachers, a Chemistry teacher and a Physics teacher in secondary school. From college though it's the History teachers I remember, even though my major was English. Funny how memory works.

    Thanks for this post. It was a wonderful trip through my memories, and yours (your hubby's too).

  21. I wonder could you track it down Izzy - what exactly is a mimeographed collection? Will google it.

    Glad you enjoyed it Tracy, and couldn't agree with you more!

  22. My two secondary school history teachers - both of whose names escape me now (the shame) They were brilliant and like Titus said earlier, somehow made me feel clever.

    Now, the evil busty Miss Buckley - I remember her name alright!

  23. Busty Miss Buckley - do u remember her D'oub cause she was evil or cause she had a great nickname!

  24. Hmmm, I've had a comment disappear - there were further mean musings on the aforemention Busty teacher... maybe the angel on one of my shoulders deleted it. The devil is usually so much quicker...


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