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Saturday, March 31, 2012

Thinking of Teachers Past

An unlikely post for a book blog, but someone on Twitter wrote a post about What Is Wrong With Teachng, about how students shouldn't be stuffed with information. Well, der! We don't do this any more. Sometimes the attempt not to do it, mind you, can go over the top. One PD woman turned up in a costume to attract attention! We keep being told we have to "engage" them, one of the latest buzz terms. And that word "pedagogy"! I have a vague memory that the pedagogue was the slave who walked children to school, though I could be wrong. :-)

 Anyway, it brought back memories of teachers who "engaged" me. Odd how many of them were when I was in Year 11. There was my history teacher, who, on the one hand, made us stand by our desks till she was satisfied no one was going to talk and then spent more of the period telling us we mustn't waste time! However, once the lesson got going, she had much to offer. She remembered pre- World War II Italy and told us about her desperate urge to draw moustache and glasses on huge portraits of Mussolini. She told us of the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand as a "how it nearly didn't work". And what was best of all, she was the first teacher who encouraged us to question what was in the history books, on the lines of, " what's in it for him? Was he a friend of the dictator whose biography he wrote?" and so on.

 The same year I had an art teacher who encouraged me in my work, making small suggestions and somehow improving my standard till I was told it was good enough for me to do art in Year 12. My Year 11 English teacher got me interested in Richard III and brought her guitar in and sang us the little ditty about the bridge disaster and Henry Bolte, that went to the tune of "Michael row the boat ashore".

 Of course, there were others. I rather fancied our Year 7 history teacher. :-) It helped he was young and good looking. But one thing he taught us, about the handmaiden in the huge Mesopotamian burial, the one with the silver ribbon in her pocket, stuck in my mind and eventually made its way into my book Time Travellers: Adventures In Archaeology. It turned out to have been in Leonard Woolley's account of his excavation at Ur. There was our Year 10 French teacher, who showed us a nonsense word that proved the weirdness of the English language.You write "ghoti" which, using several strange English pronunciations, should read"fish". I still use this in my literacy classes to show ESL kids that, no, they're not going crazy. I want to thank all those teachers - and others - for enriching my life.


Stephanie said...

Brilliant post, Sue. So many of my teachers have had a profound influence on me, and I am so thankful for them for their support all these years later.

(PS, we did the "ghoti" thing in my linguistics classes at uni--an eye-opener for many!)

Stephanie @ RIASS

Sue Bursztynski said...

Thanks, Stephanie! Teachers do have an influence. You don't have to be "cool" to have the best influence. My Year 11 history teacher was not at all cool! But she engaged me. Interesting that the boy who used to distract her to keep her talking about something till the bell went, became a teacher himself. ;-)