Student versus Teacher – Memories of the Classroom

Left Brain Right Brain - Cherry Johnson Picture

I spend twelve years at school and I have to say that I never really had a teacher who set me alight as a student.

Sad isn’t it when you think that I went on to be a teacher myself for the next thirty-nine years.

However my own schooling and I was fortunate in that I could read and write and I loved research so I tended to find out a lot of stuff for myself. My schoolteachers gave me the basics in most things and pointed me towards certain texts to read. But I could never say any of them inspired me in any other way than to not be like them.

The inspiring teachers were the ones I worked with. The brilliant men and women who had such a passion for teaching, and who passed on so much of their knowledge and expertise to me.

I was a Drama and English teacher in state high schools. I had always loved English, even though it took me three goes to pass the spelling test at teacher college I managed to get through that training and embark on a career that was to take me to some wonderful schools, allowed me to stand in front of many students far smarter than me and allowed me to achieve things not many teachers did.

The older I get and the more I reflect on my career, the more I realise how different I was to most teachers. I was never satisfied with just doing my job. I worked with so many teachers who came in each day did the same thing year in year out and left brain dead at the end of it.

I was fortunate to be able to reinvent myself over the years. I began as an English/History teacher. I started in a small country school before moving to he city where it was very much out of the frying pan and into the fire.

I was always interested in drama, I wrote plays and musicals and when Drama became a subject for the senior school I embraced it fully.

Did I have the tables turned on me by students?

Often. My last nineteen years were spent in an academic school teaching kids far brighter than me and often being taught by them. I realised they had a lot to offer me and as my attitude is to always be open to learning, I did so most days.

The secret to being a good teacher is this:

* Know your stuff, whatever your subject area have a good idea what its all about. If you get caught out not knowing, always say so; never pretend to know something you don’t, kids will see through you in no time.

* Establish relationships with your students. The Teacher Student relationship is crucial if learning is to take place. I found talking to them worked a whole lot better than talking at them. Show an interest in them, get to know them as best you can in the limited time you have with them.

* Despite the rigors of teaching and the demands on your sanity try at all times to maintain your sense of humour. I was lucky to work in a school where the kids got the joke. They had a sense of humour; it made life enjoyable most days.

What did I do better than anyone else? My humility makes this a hard one to answer.

But I would say I gave students during all my years something to remember school by. Not everyone has a good experience in school. For a whole bunch of reasons but I made an effort to give most kids I taught something to remember about school that was good. Taking country kids on a six day camping trip, writing and producing musicals and plays, showing so many of them as a human being I cared about them.

As far as my inner toddler is concerned:

Why is that so?


Written for:


This entry was posted in Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

30 Responses to Student versus Teacher – Memories of the Classroom

  1. JackieP says:

    Well said Michael! I bet if I had teachers like you I would have been much happier. I also think your students really liked their teacher.

  2. What an amazing teacher you were!! students are certainly impacted by your being you. I only taught 5 years and never taught the same thing every year…always wanted to add something current to make the students be motivated. Teachers are also entertainers in some way.

  3. Mandy says:

    I always loved learning but my home life couldn’t see me through more than eight formal years. The rest I just winged it on my own. How I would have loved having you for a teacher, Michael.

  4. Martha Kennedy says:

    I have had students say, “You’re not like any teacher I’ve had before.” I don’t know what they mean but I do know that many people don’t LOVE teaching. I went into it by accident. I taught a man to read. I volunteered in a literacy program between undergrad and grad school. I remember every moment of every meeting with that man (Ramon Hurtado; his 2nd grade daughter had caught him out pretending to read their bedtime story). He was a great student; he was internally motivated, had a sense of humor about himself and was not an insecure person. He was also a loving person so his motives were all very good. His final was that we went to the library, got him a library card, he checked out a book, he read it to his daughters and the older one wrote me a note saying her dad had read the book. Never in my life had I felt anything like that and even after 35 years it has not gone away. Maybe I “coulda’ been a contender” in some other field (I tried some) but why?

    • Great story Martha and one to cherish. We all have those magic moments in our careers. I finished mine last year and I had a young lady as an intern who said to she was a teacher because I had been her teacher and she wanted to be like me. There is no greater compliment I think.

  5. You are the teacher we all needed. Not those who stand in front of pupils, with eyes cast down or wishing to get through their day. You mattered, made those who you taught matter. I bow my friend at your fortitude, humour and your sense of responsibility to the young minds of the future.

  6. Gabriella says:

    Great text, very well expressed. I totally agree with all your advice, Michael!

  7. Lyn says:

    Teachers can make your school life either enjoyable, or miserable. My son-in-law is a grade school teacher and the kids never know what he’s going to get up to. He has an eight-foot long rubber snake, which he keeps in the class storeroom. Every time he goes into the storeroom the kids wait — in fear and trepidation — to see what will happen. If they hear thumps and bumps coming from the storeroom, they know the snake has “attacked” him. My son-in-law staggers out of the classroom with the snake wrapped around his neck and his hands around the snakes neck. He crashes into desks as he fights with the snake. The kids go into hysterics, laughing and screaming. One day the principal was walking down the corridor and hearing the ruckus, opened the door. When she saw what was happening, she just shook her head, closed the door and walked away. My son-in-law is 6 foot 3 inches tall, and watching him with kindergarten kids when he covers for another teacher is priceless. Something tells me your students would have come to love English and drama, Michael.

    • Great story Lyn. When I was a kid there was a priest who used to visit us and he came with a cardboard box in which he claimed was a huge spider called razzle dazzle. He terrified us I can remember well. Your SIL is doing great work I am sure.

  8. RoSy says:

    You are…AWESOME!
    Having a wonderful & inspiring teacher is like hitting the lottery.

  9. Your dedication and sensitivity to the children’s needs shines through your post, Michael. I had a few great teachers when I was at school – ones who made learning interesting and fun. What I didn’t have was a teacher who, like you, went beyond that to caring personally about the kids.

  10. Pingback: Imagination – views from my balcony | rfljenksy – Practicing Simplicity

  11. Pingback: Lessons Given & Received | Mayur Wadhwani's Blog

  12. Pingback: Philosophy [A POEM] | Ramisa the Authoress

  13. Pingback: Unblogged | litadoolan

Please feel free to comment, I appreciate your thoughts.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s