Last June my eldest son, my second child,
He is now at university,
having got exactly the course he wanted.
Except it wasn’t luck that got him there.
He did of course work hard,
and put in the time required to succeed,
but it was the devotion, skill and work,
of a number of teachers,
that were the key to my son succeeding.
They are teachers who had an enormous influence on my son,
and who I know he will never forget.
I would think that most of us would have encountered teachers,
who went the extra mile,
and tonight I remember with great fondness two such characters.
I went to an all girls school in Dublin,
which was run by nuns.
I was not a religious child,
nor was I interested in school.
I was not a typical girl,
and failed to thrive in this school,
to put it mildly.
I found it difficult to conform.
Even on a basic level I hated the uniform.
We wore a lemon shirt!
Who in their right mind would wear a lemon shirt?
Well not me, so I wore a white one.
At assembly, when I decided to attend, the head nun would ask,
“When are you getting the correct shirt miss?“,
and I would reply brazenly, “This afternoon Sister”.
On occasions I would decide not to return for the afternoon classes.
My friend and I would wander off,
nowhere in particular,
just anywhere but school.
One such day we were standing waiting for a bus.
Obviously we were not of high intelligence,
as we were waiting for it just down the road from the school.
A car pulled up.
We walk towards it and out jumped Mr S.
The most feared teacher at school.
“Well well”, he says in a strong Dublin accent,
“look who we have here”.
“Oh hello Mr S”, we say, feeling sick.
“Where do ye thing you two are goin?”, he asks.
“Oh, I say, I’ve a very bad toothache Mr S,
and we’re off to the dentist in Dunlaoighre”.
Ever the chancer I then say,
“You wouldn’t like to give us a lift would ye?”.
I thought that might make him believe we were telling the truth.
“The dentist?”, he said. “What’s his name?”.
Having never been to a dentist in Dunlaoighre in my life,
I was stuck.
“Em Mr O Brien”, I said confidently, maintaining eye contact.
Not easily fooled Mr S stared at us.
We shifted uncomfortably, then he opened the passenger door and said,
“Mr O Brien me arse, get in.
And so our adventure ended early.
But what made Mr S such an amazing teacher,
was the fact he didn’t report us.
Instead he inquired what class we were missing.
He then marched us there and called out the teacher.
He explained to her that we had “forgotten” to go to her class,
and that if we ever forgot again to be sure and tell him.
We never did “forget” again, but from that day on,
he took a huge interest in both of us,
and did a lot to keep me out of trouble,
and on occasions, helped me out of trouble.
The next teacher,
is the one person in my life,
I would like to meet again.
He was our Irish language teacher.
A fluent speaker who was so passionate about Irish.
I was reminded of him recently,
when commenting on the blog of Post Departum Depression
This teachers name was Mr O F.
Whilst he was in love with the language,
he was not a fan of the Irish course.
Every day he arrived to class,
and spent his time explaining to us,
what exactly education was doing to the Irish language.
“Murdering it” were his usual words of choice.
He despaired at our lack of passion,
and on an almost daily basis was heard to remark,
that the British did not need to go to such efforts as they did,
to ensure the death of the language,
instead they could have waited for television to arrive!
We were unconvinced and did not share his views.
As part of our course we had to study Irish prose.
One of the stories on the list,
was a story that this very teacher had written.
It had been written as a bedtime story for his daughter,
and was subsequently published.
Now years later it was on our course.
He was horrified, and refused to teach us it.
However he regularly quoted it,
and often spoke to us of how the words “worked” within the story,
how descriptive it was and how the story flowed.
He told us why he chose certain adjectives,
and how he had written it so a young child would appreciate it.
As I listened to him,
I enjoyed the fact that he was rebelling and “not” teaching.
I relished the other students giving out,
and telling him that he was not helping us pass our exams.
I had no idea that he was in fact teaching us every day.
To this day, this story is the only one I remember from our course.
The reality is that this teacher,
who went out of his way not to teach us the Irish language course,
taught me to love our language,
to respect it and to mourn its loss.
As a direct result of Mr O F’s influence,
my four children have old Irish names,
went to an Irish school and can speak Irish fluently.
I would love to meet him some day to let him know,
all that his “not teaching” had taught me.
In time to come I hope my own children have their own memories,
of the amazing teachers they have met.
These are mine.
Mr O F and Mr S I salute you.
Two very different teachers who I will never forget.