Day 3 – A letter to your favourite teacher from school
I know you still remember me and I know you know what I am doing now. I am fortunate that the age gap between my sister and I has allowed a tenuous connection in the nine years it has now been since I left the school. I hope you know that, whenever I evaluate my teaching, there is always an element of you in it.
You only taught me for a year; whether you know the impact you had on me is debatable, but in a short space of time, you became the most memorable aspect of my school life, and words can never thank you enough for that. I remember the advice you gave me; the warnings I did not (and still don’t) heed about my flippant use of commas before and; the elation and praise which led to my ever-present fixation with the semi-colon; the passion you demonstrated when teaching us the media module – nobody did solve the mystery of Picnic at Hanging Rock. I had always done well in English – I felt a natural affiliation with the subject, and an everlasting desire to know more. I drank up every drop of your teaching, and that love only grew.
Now, I am at the other end of the spectrum; I am looking down over children who are thirsty for knowledge, who, despite their protests, have found at least one area of enjoyment this year, and I realise now that I did not appreciate you enough at the time. I often wonder how many hours you spent marking books, how many conversations you had about that funny thing that happened at school, how many cups of coffee you drank to make it through the day; how many times you cried under the pressure of it all.
Teaching is not easy and it is definitely not something you can do as a filler, or to kill some time. I once overheard a conversation between two people who were about to take early retirement:
“So how are you going to fill your time now?”
“I don’t know. Bert and I have booked a cruise, but beyond that I’m not sure… I’ve always worked so I’m not sure the retired life is for me… Maybe I’ll do a bit of teaching in my spare time.”
You made it clear to me that teaching is a calling; a feeling in your very core, that’s the only thing which gets you through the hard times, which helps you wade through the mud to see the rainbow on the other side, which helps you experience learning as it happens, actively, rather than passively observing life moseying on by.
When you left part way through my GCSE course, I’ll admit, I felt betrayed. I felt as though we weren’t good enough, but I realise now, looking back on it, that it was simply that I had felt so connected to you, not only as a teacher, but as someone who I aspired to be like. I have wanted to teach from a young age, as I’m sure I impressed on you many times in my awkward adolescence; you, in my mind, were the kind of teacher I hoped to become – respected, passionate, but above all, admired in the way that I admired you, even by one child. You made a difference, I’m sure, to many lives in your new school, and putting my selfishness aside, that can only be a good thing.
Now, I constantly evaluate teaching; consider how I could improve that lesson next time, think about why that kid swore at me and how I could have prevented that with better behaviour management techniques, wonder how much progress that child will make in their next reading test. I hope, in that evaluation, I am beginning to integrate the fantastic examples of teaching that I witnessed first hand during my own school career.
Thank you. Thank you for showing me how it should be. Thank you for lifting me up and making me feel like I could achieve anything. Thank you for leaving me with the drive and power to achieve my dreams.
Know that you, to this day, are an inspirational and phenomenal teacher.