As the new academic year is here, the OC team think back to their most memorable teacher. Who has left the greatest impression on them?
Mrs Tilbury, my Year 10 history teacher, had a terrifying reputation and she was the Head of Year 11 to boot, so you knew she meant business. The old ‘no smiling until after Easter’ trick that many teachers employ to instil respect into their pupils lasted all year round as far as she was concerned. However, when she unleashed her fiercest lesson of all, the weekly terror I suffered slipped away as I discovered she was incredibly passionate about her subject, knew it inside out and most importantly to me, as a person who has always been creative, she made it fun and engaging.
It is a lesson I have never forgotten and told many friends about since. It began in the usual strict and stuffy fashion and then quickly descended into a nightmare: she threw pupils out of class who went straight to the headmistress, lobbed impossible questions at us like missiles, and by the end of the lesson, had at least a quarter of us facing the back wall in silence. The last ten minutes saw everyone who had disappeared shuffle back in and Mrs Tilbury calmly and quietly asked: “so, why did nobody stop me?” Stunned and naturally too terrified to answer, we were silent. She pressed on: “that was your introduction to this year’s work on Nazi Germany: a dictatorship.” Suddenly the penny dropped and we all understood what had just happened: she had been the dictator and we were her oppressed people. Genius!
It was an incredible start to a new topic and we were with her all the way as she became a solid pillar of support and even amusement in our lessons. Mrs Tilbury instilled a lifelong passion for history, exploration and questioning in me and I am forever grateful to her.
Good teachers? Bad teachers? Yes, we have all known some of those throughout our schooling. However, I discovered it is very much a subjective thing as some teachers I very much liked were equally disliked by many of my peers.
Maryse, my primary school teacher at the age of 8, is the one who remains in my mind after all these years. A lot of pupils despised her for being too strict and too harsh (put in the corner, writing lines: does this ring a bell to anyone?). Yet I remember her being a very inspiring and very fair lady who, yes, did punish when it was needed, but also knew how to encourage, motivate and reward us when we behaved as we were meant to. Sweet throwing during mental arithmetic exercises definitely persuaded me to participate! She had had the courage to establish boundaries and set clear rules from the start and, I must say that by the end of the year, there was scarcely anyone seen copying lines… Thank you for your strictness and straightforwardness, Maryse, we probably learnt a lot more for it.
From all great teachers who contributed to my education and personal development, my secondary school English teacher is the one who I remember the most. He was a very passionate and creative person. I think that learning other languages can be effective only when there is an element of fun in it.
Mr Ziolkowsky had often travelled to English speaking countries and although English was not his mother tongue, he could speak in different accents. I always looked forward to lessons with him. Going through English grammar was no longer an uphill struggle – he engaged us in role-plays which was a very effective way of learning the structure of a sentence and remembering new words; we played shop assistants, lawyers and doctors in everyday situations.
Mr Ziolkowsky also invited a professional theatre group from London to perform for us, as a part of our language course. After the play was over, we had an opportunity to have a chat with actors and practise our language skills. At the end of the academic year we prepared our own short play based on Charles Dickens’s “A Christmas Carol”. It was a very successful event for all of us.
The teacher I remember the most was not someone who taught me in school, but someone who taught me evening Tae Kwon-Do classes.
George Dosoo was lean and mean, and an 8th degree black belt. His passion for Tae Kwon-Do and his desire to pass on his knowledge to us meant that I was religious in attending his classes: I wanted to get fitter and better, and I didn’t want to let him down. He never saw my gender as a barrier in training and would pair me up with men for fights (memories of his two-on-one bouts still make me gulp). He was encouraging without letting us get complacent; he pushed us to our limits without being dictatorial.
His wry smile, coupled with the slight squinting of his eyes, is imprinted on my brain. As my face betrayed surprise, shock and fear in response to one of his instructions, without speaking, he would convey to me: yes, it’s tough but I know you can do it.