Whenever I tell people that I am a teacher, they almost always make the same reply. They tell me about a teacher they remember from their own school days. They repeat to me verbatim what that teacher said to them – often something inspiring or encouraging but sometimes, alas, the opposite. Their school days may have been many, many years ago but the memory of what their teacher said stays very fresh. (A comment to me by the teacher in charge of Careers at my school – ‘well, of course, it is easier for girls because you can either be a success or marry a success’ – still has the power to annoy me!) This reminds us what a big impact teachers can have and what an important job teaching is.
Currently, though, the standing of the teaching profession is lower than it has ever been in my career – and recruitment levels to the profession are correspondingly depressed. Time, then, to redress the balance in a small way by celebrating the joys of teaching – and what better opportunity than our School Birthday?
For 141 years, the High School has been a magnet for talented teachers and, though some of them have passed through its classrooms and corridors uncommemorated (except in the hearts and minds of their pupils at the time), others have left a permanent legacy. I think of Miss Straker with her motto – ‘work or go!’ – or the formidable Mrs Gee, immortalised in legends and a Bryan Organ portrait. I think of KM Peyton, Art teacher turned prize-winning author, and Mrs Wanda Davies – the lady with the famous bicycle.
Currently there are 77 teachers at the High School. Their teaching roles are as varied as one can imagine, from Mrs Waters in Pre-School to Mrs Hymers and Mrs Tansley, who specialise in A Level Business and Economics for the Sixth Form. Some are relative newcomers, while Mrs Dadge has been at the High School since it opened in Hardingstone in 1992. Many of us have been lifelong members of the profession while others, such as Mrs Forsyth and Mrs O’Doherty, have had other careers (engineering and librarianship respectively), besides.
Whatever our many difference, we all have one thing in common – our love of the work we do. This is what we celebrated in our Assembly. Our speakers (Miss Brandon-Jones, Mrs Dadge, Mr Donaldson, Mrs Forsyth, Mrs Halstead, Mrs Hill and Mrs Petryszak) entertained us with their stories, inspired us with their philosophies and moved us with their tributes to the job they love. Everyone in the room, from the Reception girls to the 6.2s, could take something of lasting value away. Many doubtless will.
The contributions of past generations of teachers form the geological underpinnings of our remarkable school. The contributions of the current generation are building a launch pad from which our students will take off and fly. Some of them – who knows? – may become teachers.