There was an item on the radio this evening about the global teacher prize (www.globalteacherprize.org) and Stephen Hawking was talking about a maths teacher who inspired him. It got me thinking about my teachers.
First off: my primary school teachers. I started school at Dee Road Infants School and then moved through the fence to the neighbouring Custom House Lane County Primary. I remember little of the former except perhaps my first day when most of us sat in our new school desks in awe of our new surroundings. There were others, not so many, who didn’t seem so ready and I seem to recall the teacher chasing them around the classroom ‘encouraging’ them to conform. In those days ‘encouragement’ meant a fair amount of physical contact.
But I remember all four of my teachers at Custom House Lane. We were streamed and I was fortunate to be in the A class throughout although there was a hiccough on day 1.
That hiccough came about because there were two David Jenkins starting school on the same day. We’d been pre-allocated to our classes I guess based on input from the infants school. It seems that I was to be in 1A and my namesake would be in 1D. Not a big deal for me except that all my friends were in 1A and the other kids in 1D were strangers. Anyway that’s what middle class parents are for and following a little light lobbying with teachers they knew, they all lived locally of course, we were quickly switched the next morning. No long term damage to me but what about the other boy?
Back to teachers. First off was Mrs Blackwell. I don’t remember much about her but she was strict. In fact they were all strict and with strictness came the cane. One stroke on one hand for a minor misdemeanour, one on each if it was more serious.
In year 2 it was Mr Spencer. He was fat and he didn’t just use the cane. His other weapon of choice was the double ruler.
As well as being our teacher Mr Spencer also ran the school football team. It won most of its local games because we were a biggish school and most of the schools we played against were smaller so didn’t have the resources to pick from. If our team didn’t do too well in the first half of any game Mr S would motivate them to improve with a half time chat of high decibel and veiled threats of the consequence of defeat.
MK Hughes, Miss came third. Maybe a little older and a ‘school maam’ and the first of several teachers who’d taught one or both of my parents. Despite her gentility she knew the value of the cane when it was needed.
Finally in the fourth and ‘scholarship’, as we called the 11 plus in those days, year there was Alun Edwards. He was brilliant and we all worshipped him. Maybe he treated us a little more like adults but I remember he had an excellent sense of humour and although he scared most of us with the risk of failing the exam he was very caring for those who were borderline or had little chance. I remember that he had campaigned to stop the reading of the results in class and instead for letters to be sent to our homes.
At a recent meeting I was reminded something Alun frequently often said to us: two men in a prison cell, one looked up and saw stars, one looked down and saw mud. I’m not sure many of us understood what he was driving at then but at least I remembered.
When I compile my list of the best five Alun Edwards will be one of them.
The two schools are no more. There’s a single unified school, Ysgol Cae’r Nant, that opened in September, 2012. Efstyn, the OfStEd for Wales, rates it as GOOD.
I’ll review some of the teachers at my secondary school, Hawarden Grammar School, in a later post.