Tuesday, 22 January 2013

Those who can... Teach.

This evening, I was chatting to a teacher friend of mine who is having a particularly hard time with some kids and their parents of late. She's been shown a poor level of support by her headteacher and has had to deal with some very unreasonable behaviour from all parties. All she's tried to do is get kids co-operating, but it appears that wires have been crossed and a disproportionate amount of offence taken at what was a great plan to encourage teamwork and sharing.

Teachers seem to get a raw deal sometimes. We really should treasure the good ones.

it got me thinking about the best teacher I ever had, one Mr Nicholas Whitley. I blogged on a personal basis about him about two years ago, but I think it's worth sharing my thoughts. My hope is that other bloggers will also consider joining in the teacher cheerleading by posting their own memories of teachers who they'd like to thank.

Mt Whitley (yes, I would still call him that if I met him now) was a huge part of my childhood, being my teacher for about three of my seven years at primary school.

He taught me English and made me want to be a journalist- and believe that I could. That dream fell over when I realised I might have to do things I considered a bit unethical- a la News of the World. He made me read voraciously. I credit him with my lifelong love of books.

He taught me PE and coached my love of hanging about upside down for fun into something resembling gymnastic ability.

He taught me music, and wasn't fazed when it became startlingly apparent that arrhythmic scratching on the guiro really was as far as my talents went.

He would play piano in assembly and wait until the Headteacher was safely out of earshot before breaking into a Jerry Lee Lewis impersonation during hymn practice on a Thursday morning. In our school, we looked forward to hymn practice.

He would slam the piano lid shut halfway through a hymn, saying "Right, bored with that, let's write a story" before indulging us wide-eyed kids with a unique, always hilarious, often grim, spin on fairy tales.

When he yelled, you could hear it from one end of the school to the other.

He would get kids face toward the sky in a headlock, and take them for the fabled 'Backward Walk Around the Playground' for fun, their little legs thrashing to keep up. He must have been 6'4". If he really liked you, he'd give them an extra special treat- 'the Backwards Run Around the Playground.' The recipient soon learned to lift their legs and allow themselves to to be carried; trying to keep up was impossible.

He would call his students 'geezer', 'missus' and 'fella-me-lad', looked like a football superstar, and rode a pistachio green Vespa before they were trendy again.

Mums adored him, Dads were green with envy- and his classes loved him to bits. He commanded respect by lighting a fire in your heart and making you believe you COULD.

I was fortunate to have some wonderful teachers in my years at school, but Mr Whitley was, and remains, my favourite teacher. He was a key figure in my childhood, and I hope so very much that he is well and deliriously happy out there somewhere, surrounded by dozens of excited, grinning, adoring grandchildren.

So who do you remember? Which teacher inspired you? Who made you believe YOU could?


  1. My English teacher - John Davidson. Simply the best. Went back many years after leaving school for his retirement. he said "Call me John". I said "OK Sir".

  2. You'd really call him Mt Whitley? Nah, it's not a typo: clearly he was a mountain of a man. As was Gary Hedges, who looked the spit of the dude in the Eraserhead poster, got us reading Kes instead of Master of Ballantrae (terrible old c18 bollocks I think our school had first editions of) and inspired me and others with an interest in language partly through his devotion to Orwell. Amazing man.

  3. It's a hard habit to break alright! Thanks for sharing, and so nice to hear that another made such an impression.

  4. Thanks Adrian- and well spotted on the typo... Better get my glasses looked at...