Friday, 5 February 2010

Folly Folly

I was thinking about a teacher who came out of retirement to teach my class. He was ancient, even older than my grandad.

In my memory he looks like Professor Stanley Unwin and do you know what, on reflection there is probably some childish logic in that. He did speak a kind of Basic Engly Twentyfido, but I do not recall the experience with deep joy and my teacher certainly didn’t have the lovely smile of Stanley Unwin.

On further reflection he actually looked more like the teacher in Pink Floyd’s “Another Brick in the Wall”. Those two images could hardly be more different could they?

He wore his trousers high and was constantly pulling them right up to his armpits. The trousers would soon descend back down to his waist, so he’d hitch them up again.

I found this fascinating since my mum was always telling me off for hitching my knickers up and yet here was this man who was plenty old enough to know better doing the same sort of thing.

Sometimes he’d stand with one foot on a chair. Perhaps this stopped his trousers sliding down quite so quickly. Who knows?

He was tall and thin and although I only had him as a teacher for a few months he made a lasting impression on me.

Wasn’t the trousers or the foot on the chair that I remember most vividly. He drummed a piece of knowledge into us as if it was something of vital importance. I was about eight at the time and when someone talked about something important, I damn well listened.

“Library is spelt the same way as February – it is libruary – lie-brew-arry. Repeat after me . . . lie – brew – arry. It is spelt exactly as it is said. Libruary.”

I won’t embarrass myself by telling you just how many years it took me to learn the correct spelling.

Ah, they don’t make teachers like that any more. Or do they? My daughter had one who crossed out her spelling of skates and replaced it with scates. Sigh.


  1. Ouch! I always like to (fondly and perhaps foolishly) think back to my teachers being very strict but VERY correct. Perhaps in those days we just believed absolutely in their authority! Even those we hated (who yelled and threw things at us in class) were respected as being knowledgeable if nothing else! Nowadays, everyone is far more inclined to question teachers, doctors, and anyone else in authority ... even some young children don't tend to believe anyone is cleverer than they are, because they can find out anything they want to know on the internet! Hmmmmm ....

  2. Ah, dear old Stanley Unwin. You know, Teresa, a good percentage of my teachers had fought in the war in some capacity or other. In retrospect, I think their teaching style was probably shaped, in part, by those experiences. There certainly were some odd characters though. Our metalwork teacher (also ancient) was called Mr Woodman. He spoke in a soft westcountry accent, and after giving us some explanation or other, always finished with the question, "Now, do you all get the ideal?"

    Nice post.

  3. And how did he suggest you learn how to spell February?

    I had a French teacher once who thought I should be doing O-level French. So that's what he entered me for. Only trouble was, he was teaching me the CSE syllabus. I failed the O-Level, surprisingly, but I should have got a 1 for the CSE had he put me through.

    Honestly, some of the teachers we had when we were younger.

  4. Olivia - I'd forgotten about the ones that threw things. They weren't fussy who they clouted round the head with a blackboard rubber either were they. I got hit by one once which was meant for a boy at the next table and would you believe it was the intended victim that apologised to me, not the teacher!

    Martin - what a lovely quote.

    That must have hurt a lot, Diane.

  5. I had the good foryune to meet up with one of my old English teachers whae I interviewed him for an article about volunteer reading in schools. He'd retired and was now involved with this.

    He hadn't changed a bit! And he said he felt old when I told him how long ago it was since I'd left school. In fact it made me feel old too!

    Memories about schools, eh?! Schools just aren't the same now are they?

    Julie xx

  6. I can't spell at the best of times, I'd have had no chance with a teacher like that.


  7. I can laugh now, Helen.

    No they're not, Julie. Not sure if that is a good or a bad thing!

    I used to be good at spelling, Suzanne - except for libruary of course, but I make daft mistakes these days.