Very recently Mr V and I attended Parents Evening. With three children spanning 14 to 19, it’s fair to say we’ve ratcheted up quite a collection of evenings huddled around a classroom desk opposite a teacher. In our time spent grouped around those various desks, we’ve met an awful lot of teachers. The truly great and the ruddy awful. This week was no exception.
We made our way over to the Physics tutor – a man. And a very bored man at that. ‘Pleased to meet you,’ he said in a flat tone. He shifted one buttock from his plastic chair and scratched absent-mindedly. ‘Right,’ he nodded at Eleanor. We sat expectantly. ‘What’s your name?’ the tutor asked. My husband’s eyebrows nearly shot off his forehead and I had to stifle an exclamation of surprise. This man had been teaching my daughter for nine months! My daughter reminded him who she was. ‘Okay,’ said the tutor looking none the wiser. He then consulted a list in front of him. ‘Oh yes. Looks like you’re a C student. Obviously you need to work harder,’ the tutor stood up and held out his hand indicating the meeting was over. We didn’t take it. Nor did we stand up. I cleared my throat. ‘Actually, this is a subject Eleanor finds quite tough. So much so that we’ve had to engage a private tutor.’ The teacher shrugged in a so be it manner. I ploughed on. ‘Do you have any helpful pointers in how Eleanor can increase her understanding?’ The teacher shrugged again before acquiescing, ‘Stick with the private tutor.’ We stood up and wondered what on earth he was doing in the teaching profession. With such utter disinterest, was it any wonder that his students lacked enthusiasm and high grade achievement? We moved on to the next appointment.
‘Good evening Mr and Mrs Viggiano,’ beamed the Spanish teacher. We beamed back. How refreshing to have a teacher who not only addressed you but also got your name right. I don’t mean in terms of pronunciation, I mean in being correct. My children are from my first marriage (their father is deceased) so they have a different surname to me. And whilst my second husband had nothing against my first husband, he’d rather not be addressed as Mr Coveney. We lowered our backsides into the plastic moulded chairs and huddled together. The teacher gave us an earnest look before enthusiastically launching into her address. ‘Now I know Spanish isn’t Eleanor’s favourite subject, but with a little bit of effort she could do so well. Her written exam achieved a Grade A and she was just 2 marks off an A*. The oral exam was weaker – a Grade C – but once again only a couple of marks away from a Grade B. Eleanor has a beautiful accent and so much potential.’ The teacher then waxed lyrical about school trips to Spain, recommended some Spanish films to watch and suggested the attendance of lunch-time workshops that she held twice a week. ‘I’m more than happy to give up a lunch hour for my pupils,’ she assured, ‘or you can seek me out after school with anything you might be stuck on. Can I also suggest, Eleanor, that you read Spanish gossipy magazines to whet your interest in the language and increase vocabulary?’ We thanked the teacher for her time, shook hands and stood up.
Now that was a teacher who didn’t just know our names, but knew her pupil’s name, her pupil’s strengths, weaknesses and potential. AND was passionate about her job and the subject she was teaching.
Meanwhile Eleanor has noted her Spanish teacher’s helpful suggestions. Whilst cleaning her room and sorting out a pile of overflowing papers on her desk into ‘keep’ and ‘throw’, I happened across an article ripped from a gossipy Spanish magazine. Hurrah – my daughter was taking her teacher’s advice on board and increasing her vocabulary! Delighted, I opened up the article to see if I could work out what it said. Having never studied Spanish, it would most certainly have been a challenge to translate had it not been for the graphic illustrations of copulating couples.
I appreciate my daughter’s curiosity, but that is one topic that can most definitely wait. I put it into the ‘throw’ pile and replaced it with a book of Spanish verbs.
Meanwhile this particular Physics tutor needs to ask himself if he’s a good teacher...