Tuesday, 25 July 2017

Great teachers are amazing

The most inspiring teacher I had in my life retired recently.

Over 1000 people joined a Facebook group to write thanks and reminisce about their time in 6th form, or history lessons, or politics classes.

He was not just an incredibly intelligent, talented teacher, but an incomparable force of nature. He ruled the 6th form on his own terms and inspired respect in everyone.

But the magic was this: he made you feel like he personally respected, cared and rooted for you. When he spoke to you there was no sense that anything was more important than you; in that moment, or ever.

He helped me apply to Oxford and commiserated when I didn't receive an offer. Through his magic, he still managed to make me feel like a success.

I struggled immensely with going to school and had trouble engaging with my A Levels. I remember a friend telling me that I'd stopped writing half way through one exam and sat there staring into space.

When the school team couldn't get Sheffield to accept my poor grades, I returned for another shot at those exams.

Before my third year in 6th form, I was concerned about being able to manage turning up every day. (I kid you not).

This maverick legend of a teacher told me that I could just attend for the classes I was taking.  What kind of teacher today could even contemplate offering that to a student?

(full disclosure, to this day I have panicky nightmares about going to English lessons because I'm so behind in attendance).

I stumbled my way through the year, picked up another AS level, still attended sporadically and tried to drop English. My ex English teacher of the previous 4 years stormed out of the office in a strop with me over that. (I mention this only as a poignant comparison to the man who built me up and made me feel worthy of making decisions for myself; instead of making me feel more shit about my choices.)

Looking back, I can safely say that almost my entire time at school felt like shit. I lived with a gnawing hollow pit in my stomach and alternated between deep sadness and complete indifference, needing to hide away from everything that was there. I loved to learn. I enjoyed knowing stuff. But I passively resisted the system for 7 years.

However, such is the impact of this man, I can look back fondly too. I remember the riveting history lessons, the unerring belief in me and the pride with which he told me I'd passed his exam module with 100%.

Without him I think times would have been harder and I thank him for what he gave me, even when I wasn't really all that likable.

Happy retirement, Sir.

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