What makes a teacher great?
Photographers, artists, poets: show us GREATNESS.
When finishing this written blog in Word, I wanted to save it and my computer tells me that a blog with the same name already exists. Have we been here before and done it before?
Perhaps one of the marks of greatness is having your grave photographed on a visit to the Montparnasse cemetery in Paris as I did when I took this photo of the grave belonging to Jean Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir, both writers, philosophers. They were a pair in life, but never married or lived together. I am a graveyard tourist, but this grave held a fascination. In death they are united.
Otherwise my school days are far gone. There is a Facebook private site belonging to my high school and we golden oldies reunite on this page remembering the long gone teachers. Many are held in remembrance for their gift of being a super teacher; some are remembered for the trade marks they left behind. The years have gone. I remember my first form teacher, she already seemed ancient when I was in her class. Grey hair tied back in a tight chignon, she taught English. Astonishing when you knew she was originally from Eastern Europe and arrived in Britain with probably only a scant knowledge of the English language. I remember her telling us how she had seen her first banana when she arrived in Britain. Somewhere along the way she changed her Polish sounding name to something more British. She became an English teacher. She was actually a pupil of my school in her teenage years, her original name being engraved on the school honours board.
She left a mark on most of us; there are still numerous discussions about her teaching on our school Facebook site. Perhaps she was “great” because she was remembered by most of us. She never married, spent the remainder of her retired days in a senior home and was even visited by some of her ex pupils.
She had left an impact on most of us. The discussions on our school site about this teacher or the other sometimes leave me with a doubt. It seems as the years go by memories perhaps become distorted and suddenly every teacher seems to have left her mark in the world, being great, wonderful, the best.
There was a teacher in the primary school. She was always dressed in grey, had her long grey hair pinned up, generally one of the hard liners and I found very unfair. I remember the day when she exposed five of the girls at the public assembly. There had been an accident. Through the rush out of school one of the younger girls was pushed over. Nothing special, no bit deal, but the girl’s mother made a complaint and the teacher made it her business to find who was involved. Did she call the girls to her room to give them a sound telling off, which would have been appropriate. No, at the end of the assembly she called the names of the girls, each one had to stand up amongst the others, and they were exposed as being selfish, brutal girls. Did this make her great. It did not make her sympathetic? This was the old school.and now I read from various ex-pupils that she was one of the best, a really good teacher. I only remember her for her bitterness, for her scolding and not understanding the workings of a 10 year old mind of a scholar. I was one of the five and have never forgotten this. No-one hurt the girl on purpose, it just happened and a scolding would have been in order. The girl was not seriously injured – no way. Perhaps this was a sign of greatness, but this teacher remained in my memory as being unfair.
Otherwise it seems to me to achieve the level of greatness; you either have to be a super golden oldie or no longer amongst the living. A play on German words comes to my mind. The meaning of tall in German is “gross”, but “gross” also means great. I remember describing someone to a friend and saying she was “gross”. The friend said, Alfred was “gross” (great), but she is just “höch” (tall), so I think that just about defines it.
I spent a year myself teaching English at evening classes. It is not just a matter of teaching what you know, but how to teach. After this years’ experience I realised that the teacher training was missing in my education. Another thing I have learnt when teaching is not proving to the pupil how good you understand the subject to be learned, but being good at bringing it over to the learning person.
So forget the greats and the good ones. If they leave behind a good memory then they were one of the best.
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