By Tracy Brighten
You may not remember me now Mr Edwards, with thirty five years passing since I sat in your English class. I was always last to arrive, running late from another lesson. You might remember me as the Olympic athlete. Dr Hadley never invited me back to talk about my sporting experience – I think he was disappointed I didn’t go to university.
Despite my lack of career direction, you never gave up on me though, and I want to thank you for being an inspirational teacher. I thought of you recently when our son asked about my high school education. He was researching the link between educational outcomes and social class and it got me thinking about my experience.
How we enjoyed your lessons! Your acting talent brought Shakespeare to life and you played all the parts single-handed. Macbeth is still my favourite, but then there’s the Merchant of Venice – your Shylock was so convincing – and Hamlet, Othello and King Lear that you suggested I read in my own time. I became an avid reader of Greek tragedy on your introduction and you kindly lent me your collection of Hardy and Dickens too. I discovered a world away from my turbulent home life. You relished Chaucer’s sauciness, so we relished too. Jane Austen’s Emma, dull with any other teacher, became a feisty heroine, and in your care, Keats ripened on us like the apples on his autumn boughs. We couldn’t have done it without you.
When I performed below par in my mock exam, you motivated me with a kick up the backside, which was no less than I deserved. I had no excuse – I hadn’t worked hard enough. You said I shouldn’t be satisfied with my under performance. You would help by marking extra essays, but I needed to knuckle down and believe in myself. I couldn’t refuse your kind offer and the hard work paid off.
The love of English you inspired is with me still. At 52, I graduated with a degree in English and I haven’t stopped writing since. A long interval between acts in my education story I know, but “all’s well that ends well,” I hear you say.
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