Wednesday, 23 October 2013

The Teacher Nemesis

I think it's safe to say everyone wants their classroom to be as disruption free as possible. We all want to give our students the best of our teaching rather than the best of our crowd control and discipline techniques. I am very fortunate enough to be working at a school where I can develop my craft of teaching rather than spending all day scraping students off the floor and pushing them back out the door.

A univeristy friend of mine today published a very interesting telegraph column, <here>, on the possible need for students to have their nemesis. It brought back memories of my own school days at Southend High School for Boys. Some teachers inspired me for life, others scared me, others I saw as simply unkind.

My French teacher was an absolute legend. He was an excellent teacher but equally very very scary. His results were exceptional with all students. There was no tolerance for a lack of homework or failure to learn vocab. Equally his punishments were always extra 1:1 lessons. Crucially, it was easier to be a success than a failure; good scary right? I think a fear of failure can be healthy in the right doses, and from the right people. He obviously cared deeply, and people that have seen him since school have said he is really nice chap. Very sadly, he had to retire early on health grounds.

On the other hand, a maths teacher who never liked me (and I genuinely have no idea why) told me in the last lesson before my GCSE exam that I'd "get a C at best" and laughed at me. This moment has never ever left me. 'C' was a failure in my Set 2 Maths at a Grammar school, she told me I was a failure at Maths. Yes be realistic but also fair and constructive. This comment was none of those three things.

I got an A and just a few marks below an A*. One if my main aims on results day was to find her. She wasn't there.

Ever since, I've been determined to do well at Maths. I even took up 1:1 Numeracy lessons with Y9 students to prove "I have got it"; HEAR THAT, I have taught Maths! Even now I try and do maths in my head and 'enjoy' working out department data. I use logic in philosophy and bring Maths into RE where I can, all with confidence.

She was my nemesis. She was unkind to me for no real reason and I've spent the rest of my life trying to prove her wrong.

I hope none of my students will ever feel like that about me.

It has helped me on rather, than held me back. I've been determined.

How do we manage that? I'd quite like my students to be spurned on 10+ years after my lessons... Just for different reasons. We want an encouraging and supportive environment where teachers believe in their students. Yet oddly, this nemesis can actually help us to succeed.

Make sure you do read Mic's column <here>.


  1. Mine was an unsavoury chap called N*ck Dalziel (I have censored his name so he won't be recognised). A rock climbing enthusiast history teacher who was neither scary, a teacher or a disciplinarian. Things got interesting when he marched on to the rugby field demanding my o level history homework (showing my age!) whilst a match was in progress. The opposition scored thrice during his tirade... Things came to a head at my leavers party, I was presented with a bottle of "Champagne" (Lambrinin) for my role in the school's production of "Oliver" (I played Fagin by the way) Which he took from me midway through my speech as someone sixteen should not be having alcohol on school premises. It was then that I lost my temper and it shames me to say that in front of my peers and teachers I squared up to this rock climbing, fitness fanatic, late 30's "teacher"

    I punched him once in the nose and he went down like a sack of runny shit.

    That was the best day of my life.

    Apologies to my wife, our children and the Catholic church. But fuck you N*ck Dalziel, you got your arse handed to you by a child.

    1. I can completely understand! It's sad that these are happy memories... my GCSE A was - but for all the wrong reasons.