Monday, 18 October 2021

In praise of teachers.

 My daughter sent me this:

“It was 1942. Norway was in the second year of Nazi occupation with a puppet prime minister in place. New orders arrived - all teachers were to pledge loyalty to the Nazis, join the Nazi national teachers union, and indoctrinate their students accordingly. Parents protested by the thousands, but teachers did something quite remarkable. They refused. Simply refused. 

The government responded by closing schools and withholding the salaries of 10,000 teachers. Many teachers responded courageously by teaching in their homes. The Nazi retaliation was brutal. Teachers were arrested and sent in freezing cattle cars to concentration camps. Ignoring the danger, Norwegians gathered along the tracks as they passed, singing and offering gifts of food. The teachers were starved, forced to crawl through snow and endured nighttime marches where they were viciously beaten. Incredibly, months of such treatment did not break their spirits, and they were finally returned to their homes and their newly reopened schools.”

This was her source: 

#archaeology #heritage #sharedheritage #heritagetogether #community #HolocaustEducation #ww2

Teachers make a difference. 

In this article the actor Patrick Stewart writes about Cecil Dormand, the teacher who set him on the road to his profession. “Cec passed away a few weeks ago, at the age of 96. He saved me when I was a boy and my education was failing – and has without doubt been the most significant person in my life. If I had not met Cec, what would have happened to me? I am so grateful for his belief in me. Rest in peace, Sir.”

I wonder what would have become of Patrick Stewart if he had turned up for, and passed, the 11-plus exam. 

Writer Michele Roberts passed the 11-plus exam but later failed O-Level art, much to her chagrin as she considered herself quite good at the subject. And so she went on to become a writer instead. She only rediscovered her love of drawing and painting later in life. As for me, I too considered myself quite good at art but was pushed by my schoolteachers to take a science for O-level as an insurance policy in case I did not pass Maths. (I passed Maths but failed the science, by the way.) Consequently my proficiency as an artist was never put to the test and so I have dabbled happily and uninhibitedly all my life. 

Now, one thing struck me as odd when I read Michele Roberts’ description of her school experience. She wrote: 

“At primary school, we learned to write using slates and chalks, with wetted sponges to hand. Writing seemed another form of drawing, scrawling loops and curves. We shaped individual letters into repeating lines. They were abstract forms, delightful but meaningless patterns. I had trouble learning to read clumps of letters as words, but I could draw them.”

Slates and chalks and wetted sponges! When WAS this? I googled the writer just to check. She was born in 1949, so she’s the same generation as I am. Nobody I knew learnt to write using slates and chalks! We didn’t have computers but there was plenty of paper and enough pencils for everyone!

Michele Roberts describes her feeling of rejection when she failed O-level art and says who she understood then the feelings of those of her primary school  classmates who failed the 11-plus exam. I was one of those, not Michele Roberts’ classmates but an 11-plus reject. I had watched “my school”, a new building for the girls’ grammar school being built and was devastated not to be able to go there when it opened. 

Like Patrick Stewart, though, I had a couple of inspirational teachers at the local secondary modern school: the English teacher who insisted on high standards from all of us and refused to be addressed as “Miss” but always by her full name, and the enthusiastic young French teacher who instilled a love of foreign languages in me. And my town had a 12-plus exam, which I sat and passed, largely I sometimes think because of that inspirational French teacher as I achieved a high enough mark to go into the higher class (it was quite strictly streamed) where I was able to learn Spanish as well as French. And that’s how my life as a linguist began.

Teachers make a difference.

Life goes on. Stay safe and well, everyone!

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