Today I went to the funeral of one of my best teachers. She taught me History to O Level, back in the mid seventies. I realise now that she was only in her early thirties when she was teaching us, but all teachers seemed old to us then as teenagers. I wonder what it was that made her a good teacher?
Looking back, it was not the teachers who tried to be ‘cool’ (as we might say nowadays), nor the teachers who were unfairly harsh, but those who were firm whilst also displaying humanity and, crucially, those who possessed the ability to inspire us.
I enjoyed her History lessons particularly when we were able to draw her away from Peel’s Repeal of the Corn Laws (or whatever topic we were on) to topics of wider interest. She seemed happy to do this from time to time, which I think revealed her interest in education in the broadest sense. So often this seems lacking in today’s classrooms, through no fault of the teachers, when the curriculum and the time in which to teach it is so tight.
It was certainly a strange experience to be at a funeral which was also attended by nine other teachers, among them the most inspirational teachers I have had. I am grateful to all of them for widening my vision and experience of language, literature, music and, of course, history. At the time I found learning about Gladstone, Disraeli and acts of Parliament immensely boring, but now, as a family historian, I can see the impact that government policies had on my ordinary ag lab ancestors of the mid nineteenth century.
By all accounts Mr William Corbett, headteacher of Jolesfield School 1899 – 1910, was forward-thinking (see last week’s blog post). I hope he was an inspiration to my grandmother while she attended that school.
Strangely, the last time I saw my history teacher was at a local Family History Society meeting. Thank you, Miss Easterling, for inspiring me.