7 Great Teachers that changed my life
The best of the best…with honours
This piece is inspired by a post I did recently and it’s one of a few I have in the pipeline, on schools, work experience, training and jobs.
I suppose the reason I’m so engaged in this topic is because I spent 7 years of my life living with Teachers and over 20 years under their influence.
Maybe that qualifies me in discussing what ends up working. Maybe it doesn’t (but for the sake of argument, I’ll pretend it does).
In any case, what does end up working, usually goes unrewarded and most learning institutions, really do undermine some of their key assets.
Since I’ve already covered the negative aspect of teachers, in my ‘last school report’ post, I will use this one, to give my best teachers, a well overdue shout out.
Infact, if you were to ask my mother about these people, she would describe them as ‘Angels’, specifically sent to carry me through times of need.
Perhaps a tad overdramatic but funnily, if you ever caught her praying, you would hear her whispering their names in praise, even to this day.
So for all of you aspiring teachers, here’s some of the lengths you need to go to, to earn your wings.
Role: Form Teacher
Duration: 1 year
Age of Influence – circa 9 years old
The first true intellectual in my life, who taught me Maths but I want to specifically concentrate on what he passed on, in his English Lessons.
He taught me the importance of being expressive. He would always say, we have five senses, make sure you use them all, in order to bring your stories to life.
He got us super clued up on adjectives, similes, metaphors, proverbs and beauty that is the THESAURUS, my favourite resource of all time.
I remember him having a class-wide ban on using things like,
- Good and Fine
- Yes, No, Maybe
- Can I?
And me having to twiddle through my thesaurus to find alternatives such as
- Exceptional and Adequate
- Agreed, Against, Potentially
- May I?
A great pain at the time but he was subtly showing us, how the selective choice of words, in any situation can heavily influence the outcome.
In short, he didn’t focus on the details of language, rather the power of it. I never quite understood its limitless potential of keywords, until this man laid it out, for us all to see.
I suppose when I describe my writing style as feeling like I’m painting with words, I guess you could say he handed me my very first paint brush.
Role: Form Teacher
Duration: 1 year
Age of Influence – 8 years old
After a lifetime of airy fairy primary school teachers, Miss Barber was my first no-bullshit taking one.
Now she was intimidating as fuck, being taller than a house and certainly louder than a mouse, if she was pissed off, you’d know about it.
And she openly smoked in front of us too, which for a small kid was edgy as fuck. She might as well have been doing smack right off the desk for all we knew. She was definitely the ‘Bad Girl’ of the teaching staff.
She shot from the hips and took no prisoners. Arguably the first teacher I had, who treated her class as adults.
No, not Adults,like…. Mother fucking mercenaries
She treated us like a team of mercenaries she led as part of her own private militia.
You see she had a great teaching record and wasn’t going to let any of us blemish it, so she taught for her own pride, which surprisingly worked.
Because of that, she expected nothing less than perfection from us all, and wouldn’t pussy-foot around the fact, if you didn’t deliver.
I remember I was up till 2 o’clock in the morning doing her first night’s worth of homework.. My mom tried to usher me into bed at midnight and I screamed at her that I had to finish.
Like I said, this was the work ethic of a 8 year old based off just one day with her .
I still remember the first time she gave me a B+ for an English essay, one of my proudest grades ever.
Infact, now that I think about it, I kinda fancied her, makes sense now in hindsight…
In anycase, I haven’t work as hard as I did for her, ever since
She definitely knew how to get the best outta us with next to no effort.
That’s a super skill right there…
Role :English Teacher
Duration – 15 months,
Age of Influence – circa 13 years old
Now Mrs Cathan taught me some harsh old lessons on tough love.
At the end of the school year, the entire year was given a basic English Language test to determine which sets we’d be allocated to going forward.
Even though my marks showed I was eligible to go in the highest tier group, because I spent the entire year fucking around in her class, she recommended that I was held down, not one BUT TWO sets.
Her argument was, since she was assigned to teach the 3rd set for the next two years, she wanted to keep an eye on me, for just a little longer, to make sure I was worthy of moving up.
In the end though, she ended up moving schools and I ended up being screwed over royally.
You see because of this, I was not eligible to partake in English Literature, which probably would have been my favourite subject in school and may have changed the course of my life drastically.
This might be why I write now and is probably why I don’t read.
Perhaps I have this void in my heart that needs filling but don’t wish to validate her opinion I wasn’t good enough to take it. Who knows….
For the first time, my natural talents weren’t enough and she chose to judge me on her experience of me instead.
From that I learned
It’s not what you’re capable of that matters,
It’s what you ‘consistently show’ people.
This is probably my most humbling moment….
but with time, it made me better.
Role: English Language Teacher
Duration: 2 years
Age of Influence: Circa 14-15 years old
Mrs Armstrong eventually ended up taking over the English class after Mrs Cathan left.
She definitely didn’t believe I was good enough to move up to a higher English set and I soon realised I was stuck with her for the long haul.
In response, For the next 2 years, I never did any did of her homework, didn’t do her coursework, was disruptive in her classes and did a cumulative amount of diddly shit.
I was disillusioned by the whole thing back then and we both knew how to get under each other’s skin, so we did everything we could, to rub each other the wrong way and both revelled in it.
She always told me that if I wasn’t careful, she’d play her trump card but I never believed her.
So when she told my parents that I couldn’t do the higher tier English Language GCSE, with my lack of any decent coursework, she had literally banished me to fail that exam. I instantly knew that was it.
No English GCSE meant no A levels, no university, no job and no future, I’d have to repeat the year. Worst yet, it’d mean she’d WIN
I wasn’t having any of that.
So I begged my parents, who told the school to sit me in the higher tier examination, against her recommendations. They agreed to take full responsibility for the outcome.
So the gauntlet had been set and I had to go big, or go home.
I sat in that exam blind, with next to no coursework, needing to ace it in order to even get a passing grade.
I don’t know which specific deity’s I ended up selling my soul to but low and behold I passed and it was probably the happiest I’ve been about an exam result.
The rows of As and Bs didn’t matter, this C to meant the world to me.
In any case, when I returned to school, I was adamant about rubbing this in her face
Just before boasting about my triumphant victory over her, she asked,
How did you like my Trump Card…
Turned out she had used reverse psychology to get me to pull out all the stops. That was her plan all along.
She fucking Keyser Soze’d me
That’s some real gutsy shit right there.
Well played ma’am, well played
Role: Maths Teacher
Duration: 2 years
Age of Influence: circa 14-15 years old
This was the first man to teach me that just because you’re a dick doesn’t mean you don’t care.
He was tough but he was straight laced and you always knew where you stood with him.
Unfortunately I stood on the wrong side of him many a time BUT when we weren’t clashing, he never held a grudge, or stopped trying his very best, to get through to me.
This is the type of guy who was head of his department, yet decided to personally ALWAYS teach the worst sets in our school. This man left no kid behind, even if he had to drag them kicking and screaming against their will.
In his own time, he also tried this crazy thing where he got a whole bunch of us through our GCSE Maths exam in just one year. It was super intensive but he never gave up on us, even if that meant shouting his balls off half the time.
Those who responded to him did well. Heck, even I got an A.
The following year, Even though we had a maths lesson spare, he asked us to give up our own time and decided to teach us some advanced non-curriculum shit, like Decision mathematics, just for shits and giggles.
Every single one of us obliged.
Unbeknownst to me, these were the basics of most Project Management plans. Who knew all this stuff would turn out to be super useful later on in life.
It always makes me smile when my current Management incorrectly present ideas, I learned 15 years ago and how surprised they are when little ol me unravels them infront of everyone.
Knowledge is definitely power and this man instilled us with plenty of it.
Even if you can’t agree with his methods, you can’t fault them. They worked.
Role: Maths (Mechanics) Teacher
Duration: 1 year
Age of Influence: Circa 17 years Old
For some reason, Mr Mohan was the only man, I ever did every single piece of homework for. On time, neat and everything else.
I never missed any of his lessons and I sat by myself, at the front of his class.
We never mixed in break or after school but he had some kinda latent rapport with me.
I think it was because he was small and awkward, with a funny accent and most of the other kids made fun of him. I guess I always back the underdog, so he naturally warmed to me.
It was also the very first time I had answered every single question in a mathematics textbook and only time I left a maths exam early. I had done all the questions and walked out as if it was nothing.
In anycase, I ended up getting 142/150 in his GCSE maths module. A score that didn’t make me jump for joy. Instead, it made me wonder,
How on earth did I lose 8 marks?
My best ever score in an exam (94.6%) and all I could feel the disappointment I didn’t get 100%.
When queried, he said I probably should have studied more and only have myself to blame.
While he was pleased with his other students, he said he was disappointed in me because he KNEW I could achieve better.
And you know what, even though I was his top scoring student, he was right.
Now THAT ladies and gent…., is a MOTHER FUCKING TEACHER
Age of Influence 11-16 Years old
Now it’s taken me quite some to complete this entry, ironically because I just don’t have the words to accurately depict the legacy this man left behind.
But I will say this.
This Guy was smart.
My God was he smart.
While most teachers tried to deal with students on purely an intellectual, emotional, or rational level, Mr McMahon is the ONLY person I’ve seen deal with students on a psychological level.
When it came to conflict resolution, this guy was like an SAS trained Derren Brown.
Apparently he helped run a prison or something before getting into teaching. Or maybe that was all just a ruse to keep us all on our toes. I never knew and each time I asked, he would say something slightly different.
You see what I mean about engaging in psychological warfare?
This way, he won most of his battles before they even started. We never stood a fucking chance.
Even the most defiant of students willingly keeled over and allowed themselves to be taught. You’d clearly spot them at the end of class, just scratching their heads thinking
How the hell did he manage that?
He also had this uncanny ability to just know how kids worked.
In all fairness he knew most Kids better than we knew ourselves
- How to keep your attention
- How to channel your focus
- How to delegate authority to those kids most teachers wouldn’t trust
- How to talk to children without being condescending
- How to get to the root of an issue and cut out all the bullshit
- How to help you be the best version of yourself
Furthermore, he interacted with us regularly. He played games and watched TV with us in his spare time, shared details of his personal life with us and we all reciprocated.
By doing this, he managed to break down the traditional Teacher/Child dynamic, by meeting us half way, without either party, ever losing respect for the other.
Like I said, he just knew how kids worked and more importantly, what motivated them.
There’s a lines from Guy Ritchie’s 2005 film, Revolver, taken from ‘The Fundamentals of Chess’, written in 1883…
The only way to get smarter is to play a smarter opponent
If you consider this the game of life, I think this beautifully sums up the journey we all embarked on with him.
Mr McMahaon is the intellectual horizon,
A destination you knew you could never reach but would never stop striving for.
A man who you couldn’t help but learn from, whenever you shared a room with him
A benchmark in what it means to be a teacher, an intellect, a gentleman, , a father but most importantly, a man…
I couldn’t have asked for a greater role model in life.
Anyway, I just think it’s amazing what you can achieve when someone believes in you.
I wouldn’t be where I am today if not for their belief.
They clearly saw something in me worth fighting for, even when I personally didn’t.
And I am just one of thousands of individuals they’ve taught. Others will share completely different stories about them but I am sure, most will be indebted to them for the rest of their lives.
The funny thing is, I see these teachers as extraordinary, yet in their eyes, they were just doing their jobs. If questioned, most probably won’t even the contributions they’ve made to my life.
But I will never forget them and hopefully now, neither will you.
I’ve been trying to figure out a commonality between them as they’re all so different, it’s been hard to come by.
The only thing I found is, they realised the basic tools given, to do their jobs, wasn’t enough and instead of complaining about it, they became MORE.
They became more, not to become better teachers, but to become better FULLSTOP.
I would happily lay down my life for these people
Because quite frankly, they did the same for me.
But I’ll never have the opportunity to pay them back, instead I should look to pass on their legacy to the next generation.
Maybe it’s time I became someone’s Angel..
What this space….