Wednesday, September 24, 2008

I Had Real Teachers

Not the archetypal zombies who do the job solely for the salary, take out domestic frustrations on unsuspecting students, live a lie everyday they step into classrooms, unknowingly committing mass murder... I mean real teachers.

Primary School. One Miss Taylor comes to mind. That woman pushed me into public speaking, encouraged me to write my two-bit poems and short-stories, even allowed me to share them with the class. Showed me off like I was her prized possession, the jewel in her crown... (in retrospect, it probably wasn't very beneficial for my classmates), but the unwavering belief in my greatness killed the shy and antisocial in me...

High School. One Mr. McKenzie. I'll never forget the day he called a few of us out of class. Told us the story of the professor who gave pearls to all his students and encouraged them to excel. Explained that while he had no pearls, he had carefully selected words...

Another Mrs. Kerr-Harvey. Gave me my first real zero... Lawd, you know I bawled down the whole school bout that! Me? Zero?! For a 5-minute late paper? I nearly died! Some days I wanted to kill her: for the first time in my life, a teacher refused to choose me (!!) or any other student for that matter, as a favourite, but doled out equal treatment to everyone... no wonder we ALL love her now.

Mistresses Wilson and Mullings. A darling pair. No they're not gay, but they've been teaching together at that school for so long that they're like the proverbial bench and batty. Always so concerned about what I was doing. And in sixth form when I slacked off and was falling into the lethal throes of depression (I was spoilt rotten and getting a rude awakening), these two queens worked really hard to pull me back into more youthful, light-hearted, yet focused ways.

University. Images of a Mrs. Spence quickly appear. "Wake up to your own power!" she daily drummed into a hall-full of women's heads. And wake up we did.

Mr. Gibbings. My Trini daddy/mentor. Sweet memories of uncensored classes; unaltered writing styles appreciated as distinctive offerings from unique individuals; archaic ideas bounced around like the fallible, questionable theories of other mortals... Empowerment through encouragement and open-mindedness... A good human being. A great teacher. Coined my favourite phrase, "What a pound?"

I had real teachers. Not this rubbish in the classroom that takes the sparkle out of kids' eyes, turns them into dull, monotonous machines regurgitating text-book edicts. Too many rules, one smart old lady told me. Too many rules that restrict action, thought, self-expression and self-realisation...

I had real teachers. And for that, I am eternally grateful.

16 comments:

Ruthibelle said...

I told yall I was a sap! Believe it!

Somebody said that teaching is one of the most noble professions on earth. I wish ALL teachers realised the great opportunity given to them to instill fire into the next generation...

Will said...

just yesterday one of my students made the observation (unwittingly) that teachers have the power of influence over their students...

don't give up hope - the profession is evolving still (as with anything else) and the profession in the Caribbean region is still finding it's footing in a post-colonial culture where ignorant people can take to the air waves and denigrate any subject area that does not eventually lead to some sort of material development - quality of life is still an emerging concept for us, i think... but we're getting there...

i completely understand where you're coming from though...

Jdid said...

real teachers are rare

Ruthibelle said...

Real teachers are very, very rare Jdid. I don't know how I managed to meet all of seven in one lifetime...

Will, that musta been a real eye-opener for you as a teacher: you have influence over your students? Woooow. LOL!

How true though, that quality of life is still an emerging concept for us. Education is such a crucial necessity for social mobility and yet we throw just about anybody into classrooms... to miseducate and pervert and commit mass murders on the precious minds of the next generation!

And yes, I know that the issue is far from simple...

lucy said...

i truly love getting to know more about the Jamaican day to day life.

i agree teachers can make such an impression. i had the luck to meet a few wonderful teachers.

yet, i must admit that even not so wonderful teachers still have big hearts. at the moment, one of my professors is getting a run for her money. Students have actually made formal complaints about her not being able to speak English etc. She even had someone monitor her performance.

and today me and another student visited her office to hand in our lab reports and she expressed concern for the class's pop-quiz results. For the lecture portion of the class we will only be graded on 3 Exams. She's been giving us random ungraded pop-quizzes and so far they reveal most people have no idea what we're learning.

so, she may suck. or maybe the students suck. i can't speak for everyone. yet, we have two eyes and we know how to read, research, and well, you get the idea.

i just find it such a shame that the students are taking this out on the teacher.

of course, a gifted teacher is magic. yet, not everyone who goes to work each day is producing magic & these teachers are just human. yet, hopefully a not so great teacher figures out how to become better.

since i'm talking i'll give another example. my last chemistry professor had us going on so many wild goose chases that one student asked her when preparing for the final, "What would you say we learned this semester?" The poor kid must have been so confused!! Even i still have no idea what i was supposed to learn as i was just trying to figure out her messed up jig-saw puzzles and i would have preferred a more straight forward- do this step first, this step second etc. yet, the responsibility unfortunately still falls upon me to manage myself in a world that doesn't cater to my needs.

wew! end of rant!

btw, ruthi! if i were your teacher, i too would make you my prized pupil! everyone would be gagging with the outward displays of admiration!

anyway, till next time!! xxxxx

Ruthibelle said...

LOL, Luce, you are truly crazy. But I loved your rant!!

I've had several foreign teachers, and they get mixed reactions. Kids can be very insensitive and intolerant of cultural differences. I remember my Grade 9 class made one foreign teacher cry. The little terrors! She packed her stuff and left Jamaica the following week. I felt for her because she was actally the best math teacher I ever had up to that point, so in my view it was our loss.

A gifted teacher is magic. I love how you say that, and how absolutely true it is! And the ones who aren't quite magic? I'd go the extreme and say they're killing creativity, one child at a time, but that is not entirely true, since education is as much the responsibility of students as it is teachers'. After all, we are intelligent beings capable of cognition, so we shouldn't ever passively rely on someone else to tell us what they think we ought to know... (really, how is that any different from wilful slavery?)

Ruthibelle said...

PS My 'prized pupil' days seem to be over. Now I have too many questions and rebuttals... *sigh* oh well...

Will said...

ruthi girl... yo mekkin me think too much with this one... i been distracted all afternoon thinkin about this... i just finish writing a blog post based on the thoughts you have awakened in my brain... will submit tomorrow... or perhaps not at all since it is disjointed meanderings... ah well...

i dunno whether to thank you or send u a death threat for making me think about things i haven't thought about in too long...

Ruthibelle said...

your welcome *big grin* teehee! :D

Anonymous said...

Brings back memories of school days. I had real teachers too.

kalonje said...

Good post.

Beth said...

REAL teachers aare sooo hard to find! Shelia who reads my blog..she's listed as "laLa" is a REAL teacher...and I hope my own daughter is one was well.

Jacqueline Smith said...

I had quite a few of them myself. May I big up some of mine here?
Kudos to
Mrs Brown from Lucea Primary School.

Kudos to
all my teachers from high school, especially Miss V. Edwards who is still there at St. Hugh's, I became a teacher (a real one, I hope) through her influence. Other mentionables: Madame Morgan, Mademoiselle Hemmings, Miss Grey (geo), Mrs L. White (History).

Ruthibelle said...

I'm thinking... since everybody here has managed to name at least one 'REAL' teacher, maybe they aren't as hard to find as we think :)

But their worth is still far above rubies, tho

Jamaican Dawta said...

Truly inspirational post. This would warm any teacher's heart.

I'm grateful for my teachers too, especially those who taught outside of the box.

Abeni said...

As a teacher this just made my day. Judging from the feedback I get many of my students feel that I am real. You have no idea how happy that makes me because I cannot see my self being anything but a teacher