Yesterday, on Teacher Appreciation Day, I wrote about why it’s important to value – and thank – teachers. Today, I want to do just that, and thank the special teachers that have guided, influenced, inspired and taught me.
I’m a firm believer that you’re never too old to stop learning, and even as a teacher myself I am still being taught by so many others. The moment you stop learning is the moment you stop growing, and I for one am hoping that moment doesn’t come for a long time yet 🙂
So, here’s to the teachers I have loved and learned from. There’d be no Miss L without you!
This man was the headteacher at my primary school. I loved that primary school. I must have done, since I ended up back there for my first teaching job! It was a lovely place where kids were kids, we sang in assemblies, we played rounders in the summer and we dressed up as the Spice Girls for talent competitions. It was the kind of place where happy memories were made. And a big part of that happy memory-making was the man in charge: Mr K. He was a special kind of headteacher that you don’t always see these days. Maybe I’m a little guilty of looking at that time through rose-tinted glasses, but it seemed that simpler things were valued in a school leader back then. Things less like numbers and student levels and league table positions, and things more like a happy smile, the ability to know every kid by name, and the talent for earning a genuine, loving respect from kids and staff alike. He loved the kids, and we loved him back. Just ask any of my primary school friends and they’ll all tell you the same thing: Mr K was the best! I am grateful to him because he taught me that a smile goes a long way, but a loving concern goes even further.
My Y1 teacher was a man with an almost bald head and glasses and a wife that taught me to play piano. I am grateful to him because he was the first teacher I remember who recognized my voracious appetite for reading. And also, he gave us Mars bars.
Not, in fact, the piano-teaching wife of Mr P, but my Y5 teacher. She was just a great teacher, the kind of great that even as a kid you are aware of and feel lucky to have every day. She taught me that together everyone achieves more, that school can be fun, and that a classroom can be a home and a family if you’ve got a great person holding it all together.
My Y6 teacher. Y6 can be a tough year, what with SATs and leaving primary school for the terrifyingly alien world of secondary school. But with Mrs B, it didn’t seem quite so bad. She worked us hard, but that is why I am so grateful to her, because in all that hard work strong friendships were made. And she smiled through my Red Nose Day rendition of a Celine Dion song, so bonus points for that!
The English Teacher
Secondary school was not a time I have fond memories of. Thanks to five years of bullying, my brain has worked hard to blot out that time. But one thing I do remember – even if her name is long-since gone – is my English teacher during my first year or two. Why do I remember her? One Christmas, she ran a competition. The prize wasn’t huge, just a Christmas joke book if I remember correctly, but I entered anyway with a story. Even back then, I knew I wanted to be a writer. I think I came second in the competition, but that wasn’t what I remember. What I remember is that my English teacher was the first person to tell me seriously that I was a good writer and that one day, she would buy my book off the bestseller’s shelf. The first person who tells you they believe in your dream as much as you… well, you definitely remember them.
Mrs W was a godsend to my trainee-teacher self. I needed to conduct some research for my dissertation in the final year of my teaching degree, and I needed to do it in a classroom where I could teach, record and then discuss my findings. The thing is, after having taken a break from university thanks to crippling depression, I was probably not the first choice for many schools or teachers. But Mrs W knew me – she was another teacher from my beloved primary school – and she welcomed me into her classroom with open arms. She helped, supported and encouraged me. She believed in the dissertation I was doing, and she believed in me. I am grateful – so grateful – for that faith and for being able to be in her classroom and see yet another master at work.
Yes, another Mrs P. A different one this time! Mrs P is another teacher from my primary school. Have you guessed yet that it was an amazing school?! She knew me from being a kid, and when I qualified as a teacher, she was the headteacher who welcomed me as a supply teacher for the odd day, and then to have my own class. Mrs P believed in me not just as a student, but as a teacher, and she has sang my praises and continued to believe in me ever since. I’ll always be so grateful for that.
I fondly call this lady my other mummy! She is kind and encouraging and supportive and when she was the head of the lower school where I worked a few years ago, she was the teacher who cared not only for teaching but for teachers. She helped me make sense of a new world of education, supported me in risks and challenges in the classroom, but above all always supported her colleagues as people with individual value. She loved the people who were teachers. That doesn’t always happen, but with her it did. She looked after me as a teacher and as a young woman, and still does now. I’m so grateful for the lessons she taught me in making your team your family – and also for the Scottish dancing lessons!
A female science teacher which, unfortunately, there aren’t enough of. (But don’t worry world, we’re working on it 😉 ) Mrs F taught the older kids and – well, there wasn’t much she didn’t do to be honest. I watched her teach, assess, lead sports teams, tend an allotment, raise her own kids, work 28 hour days (at least!), create schedules for a whole staff body, complete countless professional development courses… Frankly, she’s superwoman, and she does it all everyday in heels. Awesome. (Awesomeness must run in the family though, since her brother, Mr A, is also a multi-tasking genius and science teacher-extraordinaire!)
The English teacher with a completely wicked sense of humour, he taught me that it’s okay to laugh in department meetings – in fact, it’s necessary. He taught me to not take yourself too seriously, to never apologize for being the grammar police and to have fun at school, even if that does require dressing up in ridiculous costumes for World Book Day! And when I told him I wanted to leave the school to study writing? He gave me the poshest pen I have ever owned and sent me off with belief and a hug and the knowledge I will always have friends in my seaside home away from home. Thanks Mr T – you’re the best!
Creativity is important. Sometimes, it’s easy to forget that when you’ve got to get levels up or secure funding or new students. But Mr M is as creative as they come, and any kid in his class sure is a lucky one. Thanks Mr M for making me laugh and giving my ideas a big thumbs up. You’re a creative teaching genius!
Mrs L and Mrs B
I’m still learning from great teachers, and Mrs L and Mrs B are teaching me now. It’s never easy having a new team member, so when that team member is young and new to the country and its different education system… needless to say they had a big job on their hands! But they have taught me so much, not just about the American school system. They have taught me that a good teacher can teach anywhere, that it’s okay to have a bad day, that chocolate is one of the five food groups for teachers, and that sometimes you just have to laugh. They have also taught me that friends can be found anywhere, even thousands of miles away from everything you know. Thanks, ladies ❤
People often talk about family businesses, and I suppose you could say teaching is the family business, since my daddy, Mr L, is also a teacher. Of course, since he is my dad he has taught me a lot of important, vital life skills anyway, like how to make eggy bread for instance. But he has also taught me a lot as a teacher, mostly the importance of keeping your desk clean and tidy 😉 and that stick insects, giant snails and guinea pigs make for a happy classroom. Then there’s the other lessons: that the most important thing in teaching is to love the kids you teach, that it’s absolutely okay to have high expectations and clear boundaries in the classroom, and that I’ll always be alright because even on bad days I am a good teacher and a strong Steel City lass.
I could list the names of so many teachers who have taught me important lessons. In fact, I could probably just list the entire staff of my primary school while I was there, and so many others from my seaside school home! Sometimes you’re grateful in the moment, and sometimes it takes a few more years on the clock to be able to look back and recognize just how much someone did for you. But here is the fact I think remains: teachers change lives, and we are who we are, in a lot of ways, because of them.
So to those teachers mentioned here, and to those not, thank you – if I’m half the teacher you were to me, I’ll be doing a good job!
Love, Miss L 🙂
P.S. I’d love to know: Who are the teachers that inspired you?