My worst teacher

I was randomly thinking about my school years this morning. No reason why. I'm not one of those people that thinks of those days as my finest ones. And don't get me wrong, they were great years. But I have a lot of friends, particularly men, who are desperate to hark back to those days. Connect with those people, expecting them to be the same. Men who are disappointed in life, despite having ostensibly great lives.

But that's not my point. My point is that my wife always recollects her time at school with the same whimsy you'd imagine. But she has lots of good things to say about her teachers. The issue with her teachers was her, save for a few instances. Her worst teachers were ones that didn't recognise or engage with the fact that she was clearly smart & articulate (and in my experience, smart, articulate people find it the easiest to be lazy) but also had ADHD; something that was later clinically diagnosed. Instead of handling it and teaching her, they just got frustrated. That story contrasts against her mostly good experience where she was a bad student, driving good teachers up the walls.

For me, in an all-boys school just 2km up the road (little did we know!), it was the opposite. I had the combination of all-boys, being a nerd and being in an enormous class of 90+ students split across 3, maybe 4 groups. And most of them were atrocious. The groups were categorised by letter (class A, B, C, D) and rather than being by surname, it was by intellect as decided by teachers plus an entrance exam result.

By far my worst learning experiences were in the physical spaces when they mixed our groups. English was a big classroom that mixed both honours students (me) and "ordinary" level students. That place was chaos. More baffling, they did it for physics, which I ended up being atrocious at despite my dad being super into it (my dad still reads very detailed books about the math behind physics). I picked that back up later in life, just to really highlight the failure of teachers who were a bit lazy and spent more time either being entertained by or disciplining crap students.

But all of that is meaningless when it comes to my worst teacher. He was a tall, lanky man who was desperate to be in power. He really wanted to be the principal of the school, but had to settle for vice. Looking back, that could have been simply down to the better salary, etc. But I still feel like he just wanted power and status. He was a good teacher. He taught me technical graphics at junior cert. level. I entered his class having never drawn a straight line in my life, being taught by a teacher. By the time I got an A in my junior cert., that man was now a vice principal of the school, and less interested in us. Despite the fact that his class was small, smart and just brimming with confidence in our abilities. He genuinely could have steered some of us into architecture. We were really that into it. Ironically the one student who couldn't grasp it for the life of him was a maths genius, and now a doctor.

But there wasn't enough interest or numbers to pursue it at leaving cert. Which honestly would have been close to an easy 100 points for me. It was crushing because I loved that class, and was good at it. I bought equipment to practise at home, found websites that gave you challenges, etc. etc. I got good feedback from the classes, which mostly felt like college-level classes as we were presented a solution, a new problem and the teacher left the class while we collaborated in the room.

The teacher had agreed to teach us as a small group (around 6-10 of us) after hours on Wednesday; which was a half day with shorter classes anyway. 35mins at 12.30. Great! But then after one class, he abandoned us. Not because he was too busy. He just didn't care. I recall for class number two, waiting in the lobby with the other nerds for him. The secretary was confused as to why we were in detention, but we weren't. We were waiting for the vice principal. She was confused, and went into the office block. A few minutes later he came past us, and I, being the brazen one of the nerds, asked when we were going to the class. He turned, lurched over, pointed at me, and gave out. I don't remember the exact words but it was the kind of stuff where he knew he got caught out, didn't want to own up or solve the problem, so lashed out at a bunch of impressionable students.

And so, there ends my rant about my worst teacher. He wasn't abusive, he wasn't even a bad teacher. But his lack of empathy has a near-40-year-old parent really hyper aware of the mood teachers are in and how education can impact kids.

If I ever met him again, I would love to recall this story to him to get his side of things. But until that day, I'll just have to continue being angry at him.