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  • Writer's pictureMatt Woodcock

#37 Teachers.

Mrs Chittock, Mr Crane, Mr Evans, Mrs Baird, Miss Hearfield.

I remember all of my brilliant teachers.

Looking back, I can’t imagine what it must have been like for them.

In the staff room nursing a morning Nescafe before the first bell - contemplating the impending horror of trying to educate the likes of me and the other clownish disruptors.

Just to get us to listen to anything must have felt like a major achievement.

For my long-suffering chemistry teacher, Mr Atkinson, I suspect he was happy just to keep me alive.

Downing that glass of toxic liquid I boldly told the class I’d definitely purified with my Bunsen burner wasn’t my finest hour.

I can still picture Atko’s ashen, horrified face as he sprinted off to get medical help.

The teachers I remember most fondly always managed to get my full attention.

They inspired real interest. Caused me to wonder and question. Made me believe I could do far more than I thought possible.

This gift was beautifully illustrated in a fabulous episode of The Simpsons I saw recently.

A supply teacher called Mr Bergstrom (voiced by Dustin Hoffman) temporarily takes over Lisa’s class.

He immediately brings the subjects to life with his quirky character and creativity. Lisa becomes enthralled and discovers a new love for learning.

Mr Bergstrom gives her the confidence to believe in herself.

I’ve learnt that this is what the best teachers do best.

I know from talking to my lovely cousin, Jo (a dedicated headteacher), that this is what she demands of her staff above all else.

Encouraging their pupils to ace their English and maths, of course, but also to strive to become young people of character, kindness and confidence.

Last year, during a guest sermon at a local church, I spotted a face I hadn’t seen for 32 years.

Mrs Crosby - my old primary school maths teacher.

The Mrs Crosby whose lessons I often ruined with bad behaviour.

It ruffled me.

She hadn’t changed. Same poise. Same hair. Same eyes that still seemed to demand an answer to unfathomable fractions.

Call it a move of the Spirit or a leave of my senses, but I stopped the sermon and walked nervously over to her pew.

Kneeling down and taking her hand, I poured out an apology of Biblical proportions.

For all my tantrums, disruptions and rubber fights. For the rude noises I made under my armpit. For the love notes I smuggled to Gaynor Pickles when I should have been subtracting. The list went on.

“Will you forgive me Mrs Crosby?” I asked finally.

She smiled. Told me to stop being silly and get on with my work. Just like she used to actually.

I now see how much I learnt from her. Not much maths, admittedly - despite her best efforts. But lessons in kindness, warmth and saintly patience.

I’m discovering that we’re all teachers to some degree. That we’re constantly learning from each other in the course of our daily interactions.

My Christian faith inspires me to learn from the one who called himself ‘Teacher’. To strive to follow Jesus’s example. Or ‘Do as I have done for you’, as he put it to his pupils at the Last Supper.

Not just speaking words of love, mercy and service - but putting them into action.

I’d certainly like the chance to ask for Mr Atkinson’s forgiveness if our paths ever crossed.

Although he might be the one needing medical attention if he knew what I did now.

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