Things I Hate About Teachers 2

The teacher who explains something once and says, ‘Got that?’

One child tentatively raises their hand and says, ‘No. Could you explain it again, please?’

A huge sigh and rolling of eyes follows while Sir or Ms erases writing from the board and then explains in the exact same way again.

Is it just me?

If I am in a foreign country and I attempt to speak the language and cannot be understood, is there really any point in saying the same phrase over and over again?

If I want to be understood I have to say something different or find another way of trying to communicate.

Why do some teachers presume that only one way of explaining is sufficient?

I experienced this myself with a particular Chemistry teacher who just could not make the lessons clear. At least, to me. Endlessly wiping the board and writing the same stuff on it did nothing to aid learning and I, for one, gave up. After failing my Higher prelim in spectacular fashion, I decided I could not cope with listening to another lesson that just made no sense to me.

Now, maybe I was just crap at Chemistry but it wasn’t only me who had the problem. A lot of us in that class shook our heads in disbelief as Miss S. attempted to explain alkenes and alkines in the same way for the umpteenth time. I still don’t know the difference. And I don’t care. The need for a knowledge of Chemistry rarely occurs in my life now.

I do care though about the fact that this still goes on. Strangely enough, the subject area is Chemistry yet again. (Maybe I’ve passed on the crap Chemistry gene.)

When my children ask for help with their homework, I’m glad to give it. No, I’m lying. After a day of teaching, the last thing I want to do is more of the same. But I do it because that’s what mums do, right?

Well, the problem for me occurs when the subject area in question is something I know next to nothing about. There’s that bloody Chemistry cropping up again.

If my child’s Chemistry teacher cannot make the subject understandable to the class what chance do I have?

I’ll gladly sit with any of my children and explain the intricacies of fractions – vulgar, decimal and how they relate to percentages. No probs. I’ll explain in every way I know how about nouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs, pronouns, prepositions and any other grammar or spelling point they need help with. I’ll scrutinise their essays to help them find a better, more understandable, more entertaining way of writing. Hell, I’ll even help them research WWll and that’s been done to death with all of my children and myself as a teacher.

What I absolutely will not do (because I can’t) is try to teach them something I know nothing about. I would just be lying or making it up and that’s no help to anyone although it does prevent you looking like a div in front of your children. But I choose not to do that.

If a subject teacher cannot teach their subject effectively then what are they doing there?

In the case of my own experience with Miss S. I later found out that she was top-notch at her subject. The problem was, she found it all so easy that she just could not see how anyone else had difficulty or where those difficulties might lie.

A number of years ago, a rather fabulous journalist and sometimes agony aunt was reminiscing about her own mum on Mother’s Day. Her mother had been a teacher in a rather elite, private school while said journalist attended the local. A letter home from the school suggested that the mother might like to give some help on a particular subject area. Her mother promptly penned a note to say and I paraphrase.

‘I am paid to teach the children in the school where I work. I presume you are also paid to do the same. Please do so.’



Thanks Miss B.

So I went along to the open evening for my old school’s closure. It was a lovely night.

Best of all, my favourite teacher of all time was there. Miss B., the one who had taught me in Primary 7. She looked fabulous and she must be in her late seventies.

It’s a curious thing. A lot of the teachers I see look amazing after they’ve retired. I’ve got that to look forward to!

I finally got to say to her what I’ve always wanted to say.

‘Thanks. For being the best of my teachers through primary, secondary and college.’

And I got to hug her. She even remembered who I was without me having to tell her. I was delighted.

I wonder how many of my former pupils I will remember when I’m her age. Or how many will remember me.

It’s quite scary to encounter children you have taught with their own kids in tow. You just don’t realise how the years fly.

How Times Change

I just read a post about how dependent we now are on the internet and computer use in general.

It set me thinking.

My first introduction to computers was via a manila folder back in the seventies. The class I was a part of was given a couple of sheets of loose-leaf A4 and told to copy a diagram from the board. It went

‘Input – Computer (Process) – Output’.

That was it. Some vague explanation was given that we noted about how computers were being developed and how one day we would all use one. Scoff. Two sheets of A4 did not convince me that there was ever going to be much in it.

A few years later ‘language labs’ were introduced in school and that was truly hi-tech for me. Attempting to speak French into a microphone, having it recorded and the teacher commenting through my earphones on how I was doing, was a bit scary, at first. I thought I was talking to a machine and was giving it a heavy French accent. When the teacher first spoke to me through my headset I nearly peed my pants. My anonymous ramblings could be heard by him? I toned the accent down after that.

Roll on a few years and, by now, I was teaching. A computer – a single computer- was brought into the school and all teachers had to take an in-service course on how to use it. We were taught how to format a floppy disc. I still don’t get it. And I don’t have to now. The computer was wheeled from class to class and children would gather round to see this wonder in operation.

Unfortunately, it had the lowest memory possible 56mb, 128mb? I can’t remember. I do know it crashed and froze a lot. The standard procedure for correcting this was ‘switch it off at the mains and switch it on again’. I don’t think that was technical advice but it usually worked. For a while. Until you had to do it again.

Gradually, more computers were brought in and, with more capacity, they could do wonderful things that impressed me no end. ( I still had to switch it off at the mains sometimes.)

My sister gave me her old Mac when she upgraded. It had no modem but I loved it. What was the internet anyway?

A few more years down the line and I invested in a new computer with in-built modem and whistles and bells.

The beginning of a love affair. As Curious Bloke rightly pointed out,we use it for everything. I don’t know what I would do without my laptop. I’m sure I would survive but I love it. I even manage my own technical issues now and have a vendetta going if the laptop isn’t working up to par. I’ll scour the internet and stay up for hours till I get the answers. OK sometimes, I still switch it off at the mains but that’s usually an act of desperation.

One site I love is Major Geeks. It has lots of neat little programmes to boost this that and the other. I realise now that, if current computers had been available when I was a teen, I would have been one of the major geeks. How times change.

End of an Era

My old primary school is being demolished this summer. A new, purpose-built, hi-tech, all-singing, all-dancing structure will take its place. It will have all the mod cons – interactive white boards, projectors, dedicated IT suite, an elevator, disabled facilities. You name it, it will have it.

I don’t know that it will last as long as the current, yet-to-be-demolished version. This particular edifice has been standing for around a hundred years. My dad went to it, my brothers and sisters and I went to it, my children have all gone to it. Two of them are currently there today. My youngest still has five years to go there.

It’s quite an ugly building. It was built over three levels and constructed of blonde sandstone. It looks like a giant cuboid standing on one of its smaller sides. It has mesh on most of the windows to prevent break-ins and vandalism. It looks like a prison. And I am sure there have been plenty of children who have gone through its doors and felt that it was exactly that.

But I have some fabulous memories of my time there. I met my favourite teacher of all time there. I had the pleasure of being in the Primary seven class of this young (then) woman who just ‘got’ kids. You knew that she understood every one of us. She was patient and kind and had a fabulous way of putting her lessons across. She made everything worthwhile learning. It was in her class that I fell in love with Greece and its myths and legends. It was in her class that I realised that, even although I was quiet, I was noticed. She inspired me to give of my best. I worked my tail off for her approval. And I loved it. I blossomed.

I later did a teaching practice in the school myself as a student and she was still there. I was still in awe of her. I even posted a little note through her door at the end of teaching practice to tell her what an inspiration and fabulous teacher she had been. I was still too shy to say it face to face.

She retired some years ago and I still think of her. She never married. Teaching had been her life.

Thank you, Miss B.

It was in this school that I first did any acting. Well, if you can call it that. One of the teachers was particularly talented at art and music. He put on some mean performances. He wrote lyrics to classical pieces and had us all singing our hearts out on stage and feeling that the Oscars were just around the corner. He should probably have taught music in the secondary school. So, Mr. W, thanks for the memories.

One other teacher in my third or fourth year there was so old-fashioned. She used to wear an orange checked overall to protect her clothes from chalk dust. She had the girls curtseying and the boys saluting during a particular topic. I think it must have been ‘The Victorians’. We loved it.

‘Good Morning, Miss B.’ Curtsey. Salute. Such fun.

My first year in the school I was in a class that had an open coal fire. And a rocking horse. I so wanted a shot on that horse but pushier children always got there first. Sods! We practised our letters on small chalk boards and worked out number bonds with Cuisenaire rods. God, I sound like 120.

Parts of the school have terracotta coloured ceramic tiles covering the walls. These are to be removed and used to make a mosaic. Primary seven children will do this. So one of my daughters will be doing this as a last act before leaving for secondary.

Tonight there’s to be an open evening and a Mass to celebrate the end of an era.

My sister’s hosting a little after party too so there will most likely be a few sherbets and some tears.

Two days until the end of term and this school closes forever. To be flattened to the ground. But the memories will live on.