top of page

The happiest days of our lives?


With the added benefit of age and wisdom, you glance over that time in your life with the knowledge that you somehow survived intact, as a variety of youthful memories are revived.

Within the worlds of cinema and literature, the enduring image of a respected and beloved school teacher passing on the wonders of education, and life’s learnings, have gone through many differing incarnations. From the bumbling Alastair Sim, to the politically naïve Jean Brodie, the aged and crusty Mr Chips, even the noble and enriching inspirations evoked by the likes of Sidney Poitier (To Sir with Love) and Robin Williams (Dead Poet’s Society).

The durable image of the school teacher has certainly evolved in many varied and interesting ways.

Of course, some former pupils have experienced horrendous – even nightmarish memories of those who once taught them.

It’s not uncommon to recall what impact a stern, harsh disciplinarian, all too ready with a sharp rebuke and the threat of a stinging leather strap would make.

Not forgetting the equally scary memory of a blackboard eraser (remember them?) flying across the room, aimed squarely in your direction like an Exocet missile, as you duck under the desk for cover! This punishment has been known to cause quaking flashbacks, in the most mature of adults.

Yet, as I look back, I consider myself to have been one of the more fortunate ones, as the memories I possess of my former school teachers, have been invariably good ones.

This fact hit home for me, when I learned of the passing of my former primary school teacher. Even though it has been many years since our paths crossed, I vividly remember her as not only an inspiring and compassionate teacher, but a thoroughly decent woman as well.

When I attended her funeral, I found myself constantly moved by the genuine and gracious impact that she had made upon all who knew her.

As her eulogy gently conveyed to those present, I came away with the thought that her family must have taken enormous comfort in learning just how much she meant to so many.

While also feeling enormous pride in her unique gifts and achievements, that lasted throughout the bulk of her professional life. By all accounts, she led a life well lived.

She first became my teacher around the period from 1967-1970, and when she took over our class, she gained immediate respect, along with a sense of growing admiration from us all.

I remember the pride she took when we all prepared ourselves for the official qualifying dance. Prior to that momentous event, the class went through the rigorous preparatory training sessions, as we attempted to grapple and master the various complex dance routines.

I’m speaking about the Gay Gordons, Strip the Willow and The Dashing White Sergeant, three dances that would easily give a seasoned Marine an exhausting physical workout.

As for the evening itself, all the boys made a sterling effort to look smart, stylish and sophisticated – like a youthfully polished Cary Grant or dapper Sean Connery. While all the girls attempted to channel their inner Julie Christie or Audrey Hepburn. Either way, we all scrubbed up well that night!

It was the measure of our teacher - along with the easy rapport she developed amongst my classmates - that made our time spent with her, one of profound importance. This of course was in those long-gone days before the intrusive interruptions of mobile phones, along with the fraught presence of a corrosive social media.

Though according to some recent alarming reports, a suit of toughened armour wouldn’t go amiss for today’s teachers!

A teacher’s role back then was purely to teach class, usually with a firm but fair hand, keeping order amongst the pupils, whilst remaining that reassuring figurehead. Ready at a moment’s notice to reduce the heat of any potential problems.

Those years appeared to be far simpler and less complicated, in which the teacher wasn’t required to take on the added responsibilities of part-time social worker and psychotherapist.

I guess in these unquiet and fretful times (not forgetting the effect Covid has had over general education) a teacher’s lot is not always an easy one…

When I eventually left the cosy familiarity of primary school, I quickly moved to secondary school where a whole new ball game confronted me.

There, there was more than one teacher to nurture you through a more complex curriculum. As you struggled daily through the growing pains of early adolescence. A heady brew indeed.

Yet, if like myself you found yourself lucky, the right teacher can gently guide you towards becoming a reasonably intelligent and responsible adult, as you carefully faced the future with hesitant confidence.

As I look back, did my generation have it so much better? From where I sit, it appears that way.

Unfortunately. ■

This picture is actually relevant to this article, believe it or not!


According to some reports, a suit of toughened armour wouldn’t go amiss for today’s teachers


I'm a paragraph. I'm connected to your collection through a dataset. Click Preview to see my content. To update me, go to the Data

I'm a paragraph. Click here to add your own text and edit me. It's easy.


I'm a paragraph. Click here to add your own text and edit me. It's easy.

Xyxyyxyx xyxyxyyxyxy xyxyxyxy


bottom of page