Teachers are great. I might be slightly biased here, given that both my parents were teachers, but I still think they do an invaluable, but too often undervalued job.
The terrible news from Leeds this week of the teacher who was killed in her classroom made me think back to my own schooldays, and in particular some of the teachers who made a lasting impression on me.
There was Eugene Meehan, our headteacher from St Helen’s Primary in Bishopbriggs. In particular, I remember the Friday morning school assembly when, after all the various announcements and prize-givings, he would produce a beautiful book of fairy tales and read to the whole school, and an entire hall of pupils aged between 5 and 12 sat in silence, enthralled by the stories. You could tell, even then, that he was a man who loved his school and his vocation as a teacher.
When I went to Turnbull High School, I remember Mr O’Brien, a history teacher who took the school football team in second and third year. We reached the semi-final of the Scottish Schools Shield one season, losing to the eventual winners after a second replay at a neutral venue. It was the high point of my football career. Our teacher not only put together a good team, but he also fostered a great spirit amongst a group of teenage boys that gave us a real sense of camaraderie – even if most of us didn’t even know that such a word existed back then.
And then there were the English teachers. Mr Morgan in fourth year who came in one day with a large tape recorder – remember, it was 1981! Then he handed sheets round the class, a poem called ‘Waterloo Sunset’. Once everyone had a copy he sat down, plonked his feet on the desk, turned the tape recorder on, and Ray Davies’ voice filled the classroom.
It was the most amazing song, and studying the lyrics as a poem for our ‘O’ Grade English class was brilliant. I still have the original sheet from that class, and Mr Morgan was years ahead of Michelle Pfeiffer, who did much the same thing in Dangerous Minds, although I don’t need to state that she was a lot easier on the eye!
The following year there was Peter McGhee, my fifth-year English teacher, who gave us Catch 22 to read, and who also encouraged creative writing in class. He was a real inspiration to me in terms of my reading and writing and that was my absolute favourite class in 12 years of schooling.
Ann Maguire, the teacher who died in the Leeds school this week, was, like so many teachers, much-loved by pupils past and present, and I’m sure many of them have wonderful memories of time spent in her classroom.
Teachers, the best of them, inspire as well as educate, and that can leave an impression which lasts a lifetime… and, no, my mum and dad didn’t tell me to write this!