Mrs Cook taught me to read.
Ms Powell held dictionary competitions (I remember this, of course, because I remember winning!)
Mr Dibben was the best teacher I ever had.
Mr Booth expected more of me than I did (though I mostly remember him for demoting me from pen to pencil, a judgement on the quality of my handwriting that may still be relevant.)
Miss Kelleher and Mr McKnight let me move at my own pace in maths.
Miss Claridge was hilarious, unconventional and wry.
Mme Morris taught me tact, cookery and kindness as well as French.
Frau Schomaker was a riot whom I still quote and occasionally dream about.
Mrs Freyberg was the reason I came to school.
Mr Cox showed me that I was good at English.
Mrs Rowden taught me to be a teacher.
I know I often sound like a school sceptic. I am one. But I am genuinely, deeply full of gratitude and respect for teachers: the dozens who taught me and the dozens who are my friends.
School teachers in New Zealand, as in most places, are hardworking and dedicated to long hours of interest beyond their classrooms. My mum was a teacher for four decades. Marking was just what she did in the evenings, when she wasn’t at the hockey turf, coaching, at a regional teachers’ meeting, attending a student concert or sewing costumes for the school musical. The holidays are good – good for catching up and getting ahead on your prep, that is.
Teachers give great care to their pupils, by and large. They know scores of children not only by name, but by talent, by family, by need, by quirk, by potential.
I have plenty to say that is critical of institutional schooling, and hopeful for change. It is teachers who give me hope for the present and future of formal education.
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