My background was very unbooking, and my family was absolutely not expected to read or write much. I wanted to watch birds and be left alone. Then I was taught English Peter Way (Mr Way to me) and it was like going into my head and turning on all the lights.
He manifested in everything he said and did that poetry was not a strange addition to life, but a part of it. And that's one of the great lessons of my life. He didn't know he was doing this, but he gave me my life. He lent me poems he liked and I showed him poems I had written that weren't really poems, but rather an explosion of words. But he took me very seriously. He introduced me to Woods, Larkin, Keats and Edward Thomas - all people who meant more to me than anyone. His way of teaching was very researching, but also very passionate and conscientious. When I left, he gave me the latest published edition of Moly by Thom Gunn, which contained drugged poetry. It was wonderful evidence of his open-mindedness - as if I needed any proof. He was an exemplary figure to me and now a dear friend. I don't doubt that if he hadn't taught me English I would be working for the RSPB now.
My most inspiring teacher was Ed Tanguay;; In the early 1980s he taught me at the Art High School in Milford Haven in southwest Wales. He was a really brilliant guy - inspiring in the best possible way, not just because he had all kinds of technical expertise and was good at passing it on, but because he made us think. Until he came along, art class was about putting a few objects on the desk and drawing them. He made us do all kinds of crazy exercises - things about perception and reaction. He was a bit of an iconoclast, I suppose. One day he came to school after forgetting to wear a tie. He got us to make it out of painted cardboard. He was everything a good teacher should be: strict at times, but good-natured; smart, creative and fun.
I am the proud owner of a third grade degree and have been teaching for 40 years. So I'm interested to know that the Tories don't believe I'm up to the job now. The teacher who inspired me the most was Edred Wright, Music Director at King & # 39; s School in Canterbury. His great gift was to inspire children (like me) who were not necessarily musically gifted - we should ask that of teachers in all subjects. Mr Wright was never about building the school's reputation, just his intense love of music. What this man taught me at the age of 14 has enriched my whole life.
In the 1970s I went to a vast north London. It was called Highgate Wood and it had arisen from a secondary modern. The school's ethos, created by director Eurof Walters, was that every child deserved an equal chance of success. They were great at not copying anyone - and many children were given opportunities that they would not have had under a selective system.
Two teachers had a particularly big influence on me: Ruby Galili who taught history, and Peter Hudgell, Head of English. I have no idea what qualifications they had, but they loved their respective subjects, knew tons about them, and were brilliant at communicating their learning and enthusiasm. I still keep in touch with Ruby. She has always supported then and now. She is like all great teachers - consistent.
My most inspiring teacher was my English teacher at Camden School for Girls. She was called Margot Heinemann and wasn't a teacher at all, she was an extremely intelligent woman with big dark eyes and a past. That included being the lover of John Cornford, a beautiful young poet who died in the Spanish Civil War, and what could be more powerful than that? I adored her, we all did because she treated us as adults. Camden girls were alarmingly grown up anyway, but she seemed to take this for granted even more than the rest of the staff. She introduced us to the wasteland, to books outside of the curriculum and, somehow, to life itself, with all of its tragedies and possibilities.
John Eyre really changed my life. He persuaded me to join the Poetry Society (which all rugby players "Hearties" despised) and gave me a lifelong love of poetry and even got me to write some for the school magazine. Eyre kindled a fire in me for literature, especially Shakespeare, that never went out. He persuaded me to play in school (I was a wordless monk in Auden and Isherwood's The Ascent of F6). He even got me, with the help of another master in my house, to join a group to enter (and win!) A madrigal competition - which for anyone who knows my totally voiceless voice and inability to tune into a tune hold, nothing was close to a miracle.
I visited him for lunch in 2001, five years before he died. He hadn't lost his old spark or his mischievous and biting nature. He opened our last meeting with, "Ah yes, Ashdown - you were always an interesting boy. But you were one of the few who surprised me - I never thought you'd get as far as you. Still there is no explanation for fate Are there? "
For much of my childhood in Karachi, I was painfully insecure. When the teacher asked a question in the classroom, I never raised my hand because I was worried that I was wrong. All of this changed in fifth grade when Mrs. Rehman was my class teacher. I still don't know how she did it - but in the kindness of her nature she had to kind of ask a question and then look at me straight away as if to say, "Go on, speak out loud: when you're lying down." wrong, that's fine. "She made me feel safe. It's not that I started to believe that I always had the right answers; Instead, I found that not knowing the correct answers wasn't a problem. I learned from Ms. Rehman to feel more comfortable in my own skin.
When I was 17, I went to a private tutorial facility in Buckingham Gate and Guildford and met the greatest educator I have ever met. Her name was KM Hobbs. She wrote to my parents and told them I was illiterate. She said, "If you think your son will come to Cambridge, you will have to wait a long time." Within a year I had passed the necessary exams and was a student at Cambridge, still at the age of 17. She turned an idiot into something close to a genius. That was a great achievement.
I wasn't very lucky with my teachers. I remember a series of chinless miracles and passed out bullies. And it was just the nuns. The only one I ever thought of was a woman from my elementary school days Eileen Daly. She was tough as bricks, scary, stubborn, a bit like a dark horse. She would tell you to sit down and shut up if she feels like it, but she had the ability to make children feel individually important. And she had a sense of humor. I remember once driving my girlfriend into the village she lived in and knocking on her door, hoping to sell her some tickets for a sponsored charity cause. She invited us to her house. We sat around, drank coffee and shot the breeze with her, as if at eye level. It was so exciting. She bought a lot of tickets and we let all the caffeine go. The thought of making her proud makes me happy.
One of my best teachers was my history professor, Dr. GymnastAt the university in the early 1970s. He laid down the facts and was able to show how history moved in cycles. He predicted the Richard Nixon and Watergate disaster based on Nixon's activities in the 1950s. He made me see that history is written by the victors, not the vanquished, and that there is always a need to do research - never to take anyone's word for anything.
When I was at the Foundation Art College in Southport, there was a teacher there named Max Eden who had known Picasso in the 1950s. He was wonderfully dismissive of things like Art-A-Level. "Just pull your fingernails and you'll fit," he told me. He also showed me how the way you live your life can be a work of art. I recently opened a new wing at Southport College and they gave me one of their paintings that I appreciate.
In the 1970s I attended a comprehensive school in Sussex where one teacher caught my eye, my A-level English teacher. Henry Thomas. He was an eccentric - great patrician, often in a white suit and Panama - sort of Jean Brodie, though young and English. He was passionate about writing, reading, talking, always engaging and enthusiastic, and making each lesson unique, fun, and exciting. He did not suffer from fools, but instead treated us as thinking people with opinions worth hearing. As a result, we all improved our game and were more students than schoolgirls in his classes. Most importantly - and even more difficult nowadays in terms of rankings and inflexibility - he encouraged us not to think about passing exams and grades, but rather the books themselves and the authors behind them. An exceptional teacher.
Derek Swift taught me French at Wellington College. He was unconventional, original and inspiring, constantly inventing his own teaching materials and covering the whiteboard with words and phrases from German to Serbo-Croatian. In his class of 24, 21 got A grades and 3 Bs. In his spare time he taught us Russian - four got A's and two got B's. We were like Alan Bennett's History Boys. He always challenged us, taking prose exams for Oxbridge sixth grade finals, and using Asterix and other comics as study aids. He also introduced me to Voltaire's novel Candide - and thus satire.
My acting teacher Mrs. Fisher-Jones was a great teacher. She always told me that I was really funny and that I should develop this. I didn't know what that meant - I hadn't even heard of stand-ups then. She let us write and improvise our own pieces. There were many of us who didn't get into the arts but still remembered what a brilliant teacher she was. I still get Christmas cards from her. She says she always knows what I'm going to do.
Failed my 11+ and went to Dormers Wells Secondary Modern in Southall after WWII. We were considered worse than the ones at high school and we felt that way too. At first I didn't want to know. Teaching me must have been like trying to communicate with a tripe plate. One teacher in particular encouraged me to get down to work. He taught wood and metalwork and literally showed me how to use a wrench. He would show you how to drill a piece of wood, how to sharpen your tools, etc. He was a very smart guy, a very intelligent guy, but he was also a very fatherly guy. This was before the days when health and safety came into play and we didn't have hard hats, but that also helped me grow up. My teacher needed to know about first aid because someone cut their finger in every lesson, so he was a nurse too.
There was something like a double blow at my school (Toynbee Comprehensive, Eastleigh, 1977-1983); Music teacher Mary Granger, and acting teacher David Dalton. Both showed incredible tolerance and enthusiasm as I had no recognizable talent in either subject.
Miss Granger in particular often had to hear me alternating between Imagine and In The Air Tonight on the piano in the rehearsal room for hours. Both teachers spent a lot of time running projects outside of business hours. "Strict but fair" is a terrible cliché, but both managed to combine passion for their subjects with discipline and rigor. They also managed to overcome the suspicions and indifference of the (male) students. I sometimes wish I had the same inspiration in "more sensible" professional subjects. Instead, I spent far too much of my adult life pursuing an acting career without ever really having the ability to act.
In the old days there was a "seventh term" for Oxbridge candidates. There were only two or three of us in my school, so we went in and out of the building as we liked and were not indebted to anyone, a vaguely heavenly "upper-upper-sixth".
One of my Oxbridge teachers was a man named Peter Gardiner. The strange thing about Mr Gardiner was that he had come out of a brilliant career in various top private schools - headmasters at one of the best - and, for reasons of his own, had decided to end his career as deputy head at our Welwyn Garden entirely. It seemed like this guy went straight to Grange Hill from Greyfriars. We made fun of his accent and two classy middle names.
I went to him to practice one on one in English. I would shuffle into his office and stink of smoke from the toilets, I wouldn't have read anything he recommended, I had all the wretched self-pity of the lucky and the promising. And this fifty-year-old man - I didn't know any gentlemen - looked at me with the face of a passionate boy whose love for books and stories had filled his life to the brim.
We were different generations: in the worst case, I was the old man: determined, black or white, full of myself, bad habits. He was the boy at his best: open, innocent, selfless, eager to share. I think a great teacher doesn't talk to you: he talks to someone he can see in you, so in time you will lose who you think you are, like old skin, and go out into the sun like that young as you can be.
I don't think it is enough that teachers just have to be an elite graduate - you have to like children and be able to communicate with them so I would question the idea that you have to be an academic genius to be a good teacher. It's more about opening up children to the opportunities that arise from learning. Many of my best teachers taught music. I would never be a professional musician, but it didn't matter - having a teacher who cared about me and shared their passion was extremely valuable.
I couldn't choose a single teacher, I had many who inspired me. The difference between the teachers I loved and the teachers I didn't love was whether or not they treated me as a person involved in a debate. You may find it hard to believe, but I was probably quite a challenging, argumentative kid. The teachers who did the best realized the importance of intelligent dissent rather than producing people who become cogs in the wheel. Not all were like that, but enough of my teachers respected me, encouraged my curiosity, and my deviant nature.
I was with Tiffin Girls in Kingston from 1966 to 1973, and I remember that it never crossed our minds to criticize or appreciate the teachers very much. Leading up to my O level in the story, I realized I wasn't studying enough, but I blamed time, not teacher. To save the day, I asked her if I could look at some exam papers to see what else I could answer questions about. Then I just robbed this other stuff myself. The best teacher I ever taught religiously so I got it to A level even though I was an unbeliever. His name was Levi Dawsonand I'm pretty sure I look up to him now, mainly because he was the first person I had ever met who wrote a book.
I hated every single one of my teachers and if any of them are still alive I hope they read this. They were terrible old fascists, convinced that education for children could be surpassed, and they threatened to cut my hair because I had beautiful curls back then. It obviously traumatized me because I'm completely bald now.
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