At the beginning there was a teacher in a classroom full of 14 year-old students, who were learning when to use the English auxiliary verb ‘shall’. “Un châle, pour les genoux” (a blanket for your knees = shall for ‘je’ & ‘nous’) she said, and instantly that made perfect sense.
Making lessons interesting and engaging for children is no mean feat. How about translating Madonna’s songs? Fancy an overnight trip to London? My English teacher at school taught with generosity, enthusiasm and many clever ways to jig our memories. She shaped my future without me or her realising this, and she is not the only one.
The movie Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown, by Spanish director Pedro ALMODÓVAR , could have been considered borderline inappropriate in a strict catholic school. Our Spanish teacher, however, took the risk and, while some pupils rejected the movie labelling it stupid, others – like me – were mesmerized by the désinvolture of post-Franco Spain and their vida loca. True to himself, Almodóvar was a burst of life inside our conventionally dull school walls.
One teacher knew History so well that he would tell it as if it were tales from a storybook, with tones and passion like on a theatre stage.
The Great World War and the story of Algerian independence took shape in front of us. He taught tolerance and dignity, educated us on the background of immigration. He challenged us to think as individuals and citizens. Could that be the root of a mind open to all things foreign and a thrill for cosmopolitan places?
A very quiet teacher, who looked a bit like Cocteau with an unreadable expression, confronted our views on religion with those of Voltaire, explored the minds of poets, the dark shadows of Charles Baudelaire, and the writers’ beliefs in humanity. A lesson with him would be like walking into a deep dark cave looking for something hidden and precious.
Last year my daughter was introduced to various Picasso’s paintings by one of those great teachers. Now, together with her friends, she’ll happily sit in a museum and try to copy the artworks on the wall, pencil in hand.
Some teachers give without asking back. What they give, they carefully choose it and offer it wrapped in layers of fine intelligence. Would they know the legacy.
Photos credit and copyright C.A. 2012