Teaching can leave a legacy

board-chalk-board-knowledge-54597A Facebook group I’m in, which shares old photos, recently published one of my old Primary School headmaster, Mr. Wright. It caused a monsoon of memories for me.

The school was small, and Mr. Wright taught Primary 5, 6 and 7 pupils together in the same classroom. He was quite a strict man, but had a compassion for teaching that was exceptional. Although he was expected to deliver a curriculum across a wide range of subjects, he had his own way of doing that.

Mathematics was not just about manipulating numbers. He made problem solving a key learning point. He expected us to draw out the issues of a problem, look at them logically, and use sums to come to an answer. I recall one particular question as if it were yesterday: you are erecting a fence over a 100 yards space, each fence post needs to be ten yards apart, so how many posts do you need? The quick answer is ten, but the correct answer is eleven, as you need a post at the start of the fence. Drawing that on a blackboard made it obvious.

To this day, as my previous work colleagues will tell you, drawing a diagram is often the way I tried to solve a problem. So much so, it was suggested that I take a whiteboard home after I took early retirement!

My love of the natural world can be directly traced back to the nature trails my classmates and I used to go on. Walking up laneways, looking for plants, insects and small animals; learning to identify trees from their leaves; realising there is no such thing as a seagull, just a variety of gulls. Annoyingly, I still correct people when they refer to these birds as seagulls.

Mr. Wright also instilled some important values. Holding doors open for girls (yes, I know that’s now viewed by some as sexist, but I still do it), saying “please” and “thank you”, listening to the opinion of others, team working, honesty, politeness and respect.

There is an advert on TV at the minute promoting teaching as a career. It has the line “every lesson counts”, and this is 100% right. Teaching may be a job to some, but for those, like Mr. Wright, who treat it as a vocation are moulding the future of young people. There is a modern day ‘Teacher of the Year’ awards ceremony, but if there was a respective one, then I’d nominate Mr. Wright, Woodburn Primary School, Carrickfergus, 1975.

I know I may not have appreciated it at the time, but the time he invested in me more than forty years ago, has been responsible to a large extent in making me who I am today.

I hope I’ve done Mr. Wright proud.

“The function of education is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically. Intelligence plus character – that is the goal of true education.” Martin Luther King, Jr.

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