I have been lucky to have had some pretty inspiring managers in most of my jobs, but I think real inspiration hit in school. I have two teachers in mind for this and fins it hard to choose between them.
The first was a primary school teacher who taught me for the last 2 years in junior school (what we would now call Years 5 and 6). He was a little bit scary at first – we had only had female teachers until then – and the first lesson we had he laid down the rules pretty firmly about behaviour. From then on he was simply amazing.
He taught us about biology and chemistry and history and literature; he invented stories to make us laugh and played games to keep us focused, from a version of Sleeping Lions at the end of the day (we had to keep still and not taught while he made up ridiculous stories about a ghost who lived in the roof above the classroom) or a kind of tag game in the playground which we played on days when we were too noisy and unsettled, I suppose. A good game running about shouting and chasing soon helped us settle back down to work! He took us for walks to look at the local wildlife and collect pond water and insects to view under a microscope. We burned candles in bell jars to see the flame go out, made our own paper, and built papier-maché dinosaurs. We grew plants, wrote our own newspaper and held courtroom sessions to look at justice and ethics. We talked about why certain rules were useful, and some were just convenient. A particularly inspirational example was when he got the children who were good at spelling to help those who were struggling. I was asked to work with a boy who was pretty far behind in writing and spelling, but the teacher first of all taught him how to spell a word he didn’t expect me to know (it was “phlegm” as it happens) so that the boy could see me get it wrong and feel better about himself.
Sounds like a definite inspiration, and he was. I learned to think about the world and to solve problems creatively but logically.
The other teacher I am thinking of was my German teacher at secondary school. On the face of it she was less inspirational. She couldn’t control the class, frequently forgot we had a lesson or fell asleep during it, and was almost impossible to follow. Somehow I managed and four of us took the A-level. And then she came into her own. She became a new teacher, dedicated to the full education of her group of students, and we learned as much about art and literature and classics and philosophy as we did about German. She introduced us to hew own version of civilisation and culture and I think the world might be a better place is we shared her vision more widely, and believed in the values of kindness, learning and respect for others.
I am torn between them both, but perhaps the things I learned in primary school made me better able to appreciate those in secondary, so in the end I shall give you a photo of the most marvellous Mr Burch (also featuring Barry, Trevor, Pete and Sharon).