School Days

Anne here. I’ve just been invited to a reunion of my high school final year class. It’s a significant year,
Mumschoolgirl2 and the organizer has put out a call for us to contact others in the year and to gather up school memorabilia, old photos and old stories. I’m only in contact with two friends from high school, but we’ve been dredging old memories. When I mentioned this to some other friends, it sparked a discussion about teachers we loved and teachers we hated and ones who made a significant impact on our lives. (That's my mother as a schoolgirl on the right. I'm on my laptop and not at home so I don't have access to most of my pics.)

I initially assumed that because we moved a lot there wasn’t time for any teacher to make a major impact on me, but when I thought about it, a few special people stood out, and the impact they made was probably not one they’d expect to be remembered for. 

Miss Fitcher was my very first teacher. I won’t say she taught me to read — much to my mother’s annoyance, I could read before I started school (Mum thought that wasn’t fair on the teacher.) Miss Fitcher was elderly and white-haired and as well as the 3 R’s, she taught us dozens of songs and poems, many of which I still remember. She loved to read us stories at the end of the day and I’m sure she instilled the love of books in every child she taught. She was my teacher for two years and when we left to live to Scotland, she gave me a St. Christopher medal to keep me safe. We weren't Catholic and my mother wasn't too keen on me wearing it, but I still have that little medal. Thank you Miss Fitcher.(Here's a pic of me at school in Scotland that I just pulled off my own website. Can you pick me out? I explain which one is me on my website.)

AnnescotlandNext was Mr. Tresize, who was the school librarian when I was in year 5 and 6— the final years of primary (elementary) school. My friend, Alicia (pronounced A liss ee ya, not Aleesha) and I were both great readers, and we got into the habit of borrowing a books of about the same length and then racing to finish them first. It got so that we were borrowing a book every night, and Mr. Tresize didn’t believe we really were reading them, so he tested us on each book before we could borrow a new one. That made us both good, fast, effective readers. So thank you Mr. Tresize.

Next was Mrs. Reckenburg, my maths teacher in year 8 (2nd year of high school.) When she found out my father had been promoted again and we were moving to the city, it was she who pointed out the area we were going to had a terrible reputation. At this stage, I’d been to six different schools in six different towns in eight years, and the chances were we’d move again in a year or two. She arranged for me to sit an exam for an academic high school in the city — and that’s where I ended up spending the last four years of my schooling. It was a great school and when two years later my father’s job took us to the opposite side of the city, I was able to keep the school and my friends. It took me 90 minutes to get to school but I did my homework on the train. So thank you Mrs. Reckenburg.

At that next school I had a science teacher called Mr. Paddy Meagher (pronounced Marr.) He looked like My Favorite Martian and he was crazy and clever and hilariously funny and he made science such an adventure. To this day when I think of photosynthesis, I think of Paddy Meagher in his leopard skin bikinis, sun bathing on the top of the nurses quarters of the hospital behind the school, drinking water and eating candy supposedly called Chlorophillies — and failing to photosynthesize because he lacked the right enzymes. Science class was a joy to attend. Thank you Paddy Meagher.

Lastly was Mrs. Yvette White, who took me for history in year 11. She was heading toward retirement age when she had us, but she had a wonderfully flexible and original mind. More than anything, she taught us to think and to reason and debate ideas and all kinds of propositions. It wasn’t enough to learn historical facts — it was what you did with the facts that counted. She also encouraged me to incorporate creative writing with history, which history teachers simply didn’t do in those days. . . and well, I’m still doing it. So thank you Mrs. White.

I had a very different history teacher the following year. I won’t say his name, because I don’t have fond memories. He was a loud, blustering fellow who handed out notes by the ream, but spent most of the class strutting up and down at the front of the class, sounding off. He delighted in humiliating students and prided himself on marking very hard. If you got 12 out of 20 for an essay, you were doing well with him. He smoked non-stop in the classroom and when anyone complained he’d blow smoke in their face. My, how times have changed.

What about you? Do you have good memories of school, or bad ones? Do you still keep touch with any school friends? Are there any teachers you remember with fondness — or acrimony? Any things that were commonplace at school in your day that would be unthinkable now? Tell us about your school days.