Naked People Have Little or No Influence On Society!! #DailyWritingChallenge Day 95
This quote from Mark Twain made me giggle but it then made me think carefully about the people who have influenced me. Metaphorically, they were all well clothed but in very different ways. Or perhaps I should begin with how peer influence and pressure led to me being dumped naked on the Welsh border. Actually, I'll save that for another day.
I could list many people who have influenced me; David Bowie -for his style and unending imagination and insight; Nelson Mandela- for showing how quiet strength can win through; John Smith - the most underrated Labour Leader of my generation; The Levellers - for looking at life from a different perspective; My Dad - who was a new man back in the sixties and guided me to my greatest triumphs (my children and my role as Dad); Paul Jennings - for revealing the power of reading to a class; the list could go on and on.
But as a teacher, I thought I would focus on the teachers who influenced me. There are five who stand out for me. One must be discarded because unfortunately his influence was confusing for me, and damaging for many others. Forty years on his influence still looms large but onto lighter matters.
Mr Emms! The teacher my parents gave all the credit to, for inspiring me and keeping me on the straight and narrow. Bollocks - he scared the shit out of me. Not in a fearsome, strict teacher way but because he beat the children. He would make them touch their toes and he would keep his arm rigid as he tanned their behinds. I knew I didn't want this and did everything in my power to become the perfect pupil. It wasn't the beating I feared but the humiliation in my from peers. The fact he died in a tragic way leaves me with mixed emotions.
MIss Minson - I went to one of the toughest secondary moderns in the area and it recently came bottom of the secondary league tables for the whole country. Despite this, I loved my time there. Miss M was the bookish, most softly spoken teacher ever but her command over my lively class was amazing. I think it was her passion for the books she shared. Pride and Prejudice, The Illustrated Man and Chicken Soup With Barley were not easy sales for us but she made them come alive. For that, I am eternally grateful.
Mr... and it's terrible because I can't remember his name. I had transferred to the local Grammar School for A-Levels ( I hated it) and this man was my English Lit teacher. To put it bluntly, he was a foul-mouthed pervert, but he brought many a text to life and influenced me for life. The fact that everything was about sex helped a lot for a group of hormonal teenage boys.
Philip Larkin - Sex! Geoffrey Chaucer - Sex! Shakespear -Sex! And as for John Milton, well Paradise Lost is indelibly imprinted in my mind for one cussed line our teacher spoke. Thirty-six years later, I can still recite it. He was discussing the serpent spying Eve for the first time, and in educated tones he said, and I quote " Well basically, he got an eye full of c***!" Now to a group of boys, this was jaw-dropping. But despite this, my love of literature is built on these teenage foundations.
To conclude, I want to return to my secondary modern and a man named Roy Walker. If you interviewed any boy who attended the school between 1975 and 1995 they would say, when asked about Mr. Walker, " Come on lads, let's get into a game situation!" in a broad Valleys accent. He was the most amazing PE teacher and when I left at 16 he awarded the PE Prize to me. The influence this had on me was immense and sits warmly in my heart until this day. I could write for pages on the things he did, but needless to say that when I landed my first teaching job, as a secondary PE teacher, it was him I saught out.
So, as this week passes, and I read the negative press directed towards teachers. I think of the people above and all those teachers I have connected with on Twitter, and I say forget the knockers, you have more influence on young lives than anyone. What you do and say can shape a life forever. That's a heavy responsibility, but it is one I know we do not take lightly. As Henry Adams said, "The teacher affects eternity; he can never tell when his influence stops." ( Please substitute the pronoun).