When I think back to my school days I can remember few of the teachers. In itself that is not so surprising as it has been forty years since I left school. However, the names of three teachers are indelibly etched into my memory. It’s probable that they are now dead, indeed it’s improbable that they are still alive, as they seemed rather old at the time I knew them, so I don’t hesitate in giving their real names.
- Earnest Croft – Headmaster.
- Mr Tasker – Art teacher.
- Mr Stamp – History teacher.
In the schools I went to all the teachers wore black gowns and some even wore mortar boards. The cane was still a potent deterrent to behavioural problems and assembly was held every morning in a huge hall.
Ernest Croft wore both the gown and the mortar board and was adept at swinging the cane.
Mr Tasker wore the gown but not the mortar board, and he had a formidable moustache that Kitchener would have envied.
Mr Stamp wore a black gown, wore a mortar board on ceremonial occasions such as morning assembly, and always carried a cane. The cane Mr Stamp carried, however, was for physical support, as he had a trapped nerve that not only caused him to limp but must also have been a source of great discomfort.
I can’t remember the names of any other teachers. I can’t remember what they looked like or what they taught me. So why do I so clearly remember Mr Ernest Croft, Mr Tasker and Mr Stamp?
There is a simple answer. They were the apex of their teaching type, as far as I´m concerned.
Mr Croft was a complete and utter bastard, and vicious with it, and I think it is fair to say that he came as close as anyone ever has to inspiring hatred in me. Croft, the nasty old git, had a moustache which bristled under his angular little nose like some demented dictator’s.
Mr Tasker was possibly the worst teacher I have ever had the misfortune to meet, and from him I learned nothing except to be wary of men with large moustaches. He felt that it was your fault if you did not learn, not the fault of the teacher.
But Mr Stamp was the most passionate teacher I have ever met and he instilled his passion for history in every student he taught. When he spoke about the Romans or the Vikings, he did so in such a way that you could see them, hear them, and felt that you knew what it was to be confronted by them. Mr Stamp was clean-shaven.
Of the three kinds of teacher I’ve outlined above, I hope that I fall squarely in Mr Stamp’s corner as far as my own teaching goes. I am passionate about my English teaching, about the language itself, and about finding ways to make sure that my students learn the language as quickly, as interestingly, and as memorably as possible.
Perhaps my experiences of these, the only three teachers who I vividly remember from my years of education, prompted me never to grow a moustache myself. Who but a psychiatrist would ever know, and the only psychiatrists I speak to are some of my students, and the question of facial hair has not yet arisen. However, as I talk about every subject under the sun with my students, perhaps one day it will.