Sunday, 24 April 2016

There was a death notice

in the paper for one of my former teachers. She taught me English. Fortunately she did this for only two school terms. If it had been longer than that I probably would not be writing this. I might not ever have written anything. 
It is not usual to "speak ill of the dead" but this woman told me I couldn't write. She refused to even read what I had written. 
      "When you learn to write then I will read your work," she told me. 
Of course she was referring to my handwriting. The actual words on the page didn't matter to her at all. I loathed that woman. I think the entire class loathed her. 
She was not a kind woman and I have often wondered why she went teaching. It could not have been out of any love for teenage girls or for the subject she taught. We were expected to parrot back her views and they seemed strange to me. 
The Senior Cat had been teaching me English the previous year. He loves language. 
       "Come on," he would say to us, "Words that describe cows, that tell me what cows are really like."
And he would go on and link this to Keats. We ended up understanding cows and Keats. 
The other English teacher would go through a poem line by line. She informed us of all the technical aspects and what we were expected to say about it. That was it. The poem might not have had any emotion in it at all. 
I gave up on her. My Latin teacher at the time read my English essays instead. "I like that idea" and "have you thought about?" and "why have you...?" appeared in the comments. I wish she was still around. I could tell her how much I appreciated it all over again.
Fortunately for me I had an outstandingly good teacher the following year - at  yet another school. We remained good friends until she died. She provided me with more and more books she thought I could and should and might want to read. I read. 
But, looking at the death notices this morning I wonder what sort of old age the other English teacher had. I had lost track of her completely until I saw her name there - and yes, it was her. There was no mention of family or friends. Her funeral was "private" which suggests it was attended by very few. 
I found it sad. I thought  yet again of how absolutely vital it is to learn to use language, of how important it is to learn to express ideas and emotions and develop imagination. Science needs language, something even my science teacher (a formidable woman who always wore a lab coat) understood.
Did my English teacher that year understand any of that? Surely she must have. 


Miriam Drori said...

I had a very good English teacher for five years, but she wasn't good for me because she formed opinions about us from the beginning and never changed them. I write despite my English teacher. I'd probably have started writing much earlier if she'd been different.

jeanfromcornwall said...

Probably of that generation that were pointed at teaching because they had a certain amount of intelligence but no talents to speak of and nobody could think of a better idea. The very last ones that should have been doing the job. Children deserve better, and I don't think they would last in the schools that we have now.

catdownunder said...

She most certainly would not Jean! And I know how Miriam feels!