Education · Teaching

Just 3 Teachers

three teachersA couple of weeks ago one of my favourite Educational bloggers @MichaelT1979 published this post. Since then other bloggers have jumped on the bandwagon and done their own version of the post – teachers aren’t as averse to copying as people think. The idea is you pick three teachers from your own education. One who you now emulate, one who changed you and one who inspired you to become a teacher. I really struggled with this as I was fortunate enough to be taught by so many fantastic teachers during my school years. But rules are rules – so here are my three.

1) The teacher I emulated – Mrs Woodhams

I sometimes wonder how different my attitude to school might have been if I hadn’t been fortunate enough to wander into Wendy Woodhams’ classroom at the age of 4.  Although my memories of Reception aren’t hugely clear I do remember that classroom being such an exciting place to be and being desperate to get to school every day. Wendy worked hard to give us real-life experiences so we had a real dentist’s chair in our role play area, god knows how she got hold of it. Our art work wasn’t double mounted and displayed on the wall, instead our classroom became “The Ghostbusters Gallery” (I can only assume we chose the name) that we opened to members of the public.

art gallery
5-year-old me curating at our Ghostbusters Art Gallery

We built a Berlin wall and kicked it down for our assembly. Learning was always fun and always started with what we wanted to find out. I think by the time I started school I was well on my way to reading and once I started I didn’t want to stop. Wendy was my very own Miss Honey providing me with her own books that I was allowed to take home.  She was endlessly patient, warm and always, always cheerful and I’m pleased to report that we are still in touch and she is still all of those things today.

2) The teacher who changed me – Mr Hall

Being born in Kent brings one inevitability – the dreaded 11+. Once the tests had decided I was capable enough, I went to a Grammar school in a nearby town. The problem with attending a very high achieving school is that it is all too easy to feel inadequate or imagine you’re failing when you’re not. By the time I was 15 I had decided I was terrible at maths.  This was confirmed for me when I was put in the lower set (because I was predicted a “B” grade at GCSE  and anything less than an “A” wasn’t worth mentioning.) The task of getting me that “B” grade fell to Mr Hall whose official title should be: “The Most Patient Man In Britain”. We went over and over the basic principles; he must have answered the same questions 498 times. Trying to motivate teenagers isn’t the easiest task but with good humour, patience and a huge level of empathy Mr Hall managed to keep us engaged (most of the time.)

I imagine it’s very difficult to teach teenagers, particularly teenage girls as they’ll make fun of any little quirk or idiosyncrasy. High pitched voice or regional accent? There are impressions of you going on in the Common Room. Your clothes, aftershave and the way you walk will all be scrutinised. It isn’t fair or any reflection on how good you are at teaching. However, there are a handful of teachers who escape this treatment either by being relatable, kind and good-humoured or just hugely respected.  Mr Mr Hall was one of them. We thought he was brilliant and he… well, he thought we alright too I’m sure.

It took two long years but somehow, amongst the boyfriend and friendship drama that seems to rule your life at 15, I got my B grade and, far more importantly, my confidence was back. I no longer find Maths intimidating or scary in fact it’s my favourite subject to teach.

3) The teacher who made me want to teach – Mrs Jennings

By the end of Year 6 I’d decided I was going to be a teacher (or a Blue Peter presenter.) I was lucky, I’d had two of most inspiring teachers bookend my Primary education. As I’ve already mentioned I started my education with Mrs Woodhams and in Year 6 I was fortunate to have another inspirational teacher in the shape of Mrs Jennings.

If Mrs Woodhams got me loving reading Mrs Jennings pushed me to the next level. She would always want to know what we were and what we thought about it. She introduced me to Tennyson, Wordsworth,  and Shakespeare. We were only 10 but Mrs Jennings made herself the tour guide as she took us into these new realms explaining the unknown words, providing us with the background knowledge we needed and answering endless questions so we weren’t intimidated by this literature. At the same time she read us picture books, nonsense poems and Roald Dahl. There was no such thing as the books we were “meant” to read – it was just important that we enjoyed reading. I wrote countless stories and poems that year and remember so clearly her positive and thoughtful feedback.

By the time you are in Year 6 you are far more aware of the system you are in and you can better appreciate everything your teacher does for you. I remember watching Mrs Jennings working with a small group of children in our maths lessons. It must have been in the run up to SATs or the 11+ yet there was no sense of stress in herself or the pupils. The group were laughing and working through things at their own pace with just the occasional gentle nudge from Mrs Jennings to stay on task. I remember thinking, “I want to do that when I’m older.”

What I haven’t included are all the teachers I’ve worked with as an adult. So many of them could fit these categories. From Mrs Redshaw, the class teacher I worked with on my first PGCE placement to Miss Noble who taught me to make sure every day is just a little bit magical for the children in her class to my current SLT who I learn from every single day. I’ve worked with the some of best teachers you’ll ever meet (I’ve not met all teachers but just trust me on this) and I’ve learnt from them all.

So – who would be your three?

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