Walking into the lesson he picked up an elastic band, pulled it back, "That's potential energy..." he said. The elastic band flew across the room. "And that's kinetic energy." Never have I forgotten that moment in year 6, never have I forgotten that particular piece of physics. He was our headmaster and I would rank him as the most influential teacher I ever had. The cigar smoke seeping from his office, the giant art projects (shoes and socks off to walk over the paper), the trip to France (he showed me Monet's garden, took me to L'Orangerie and instilled a love of art which stays with me today), the funny words he used (smellytape). Yes, he had the hearts of his children. And I'm sure the hearts of his staff members too. His funeral was heavily attended. He made teaching (and leading a school) look like fun and we loved to be around him.
Lesson: be a fun teacher
The stories. It was all about the stories. We read and read and read. Zachary and I stayed in at lunch time to talk to her about The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings (we were in year 3!) and she brought in books of Tolkien-inspired art work to show us. She indulged our passions, and hers, and a lifelong reader she did make. If ever a teacher fostered a love of reading in her pupils it was her. Oh, and she also used to let me tidy the cupboard - my standard ploy whenever maths came round and I did it a surprising number of times. It was a cupboard I liked to imagine as Roald Dahl's Chokey, so small was it in our little old Victorian school building, and I remember reorganising the piles of text books I was supposed to be learning from (what were those ones with a hot air balloon on the front?) I've never understood why she allowed it, but she did, and look at me now.
Lesson: engage children using their own interests
Picture two scruffy teenagers on rollerblades causing a public nuisance outside Morrisons. Picture a maturing (she may have been younger than I thought but when you're little you think everyone is old) lady walking down the access ramp towards them. That scenario, in my experience, never goes well. Except when after 15-ish years those two teens still remember their nursery teacher and that maturing lady still remembers every one of her little charges. I have many more memories of my time at nursery than I do of my Key Stage One experience. I visited the nursery recently as my daughter did a stint there before we moved; the huge hall that once provided so many hours of imaginative play seemed tiny, as did those cavernous classrooms where she let us do woodwork with real nails and hammers and saws. Who needed Mummy at nursery when you had Mrs. Sanderson - caring, kind and encouraging of all exploration. Even rollerblading.
Lesson: know your children
Thanks to @Michaelt1979 for the inspiration for this blog post