Kaye Adams: my best teacher

25th March 2011 at 00:00
The journalist hails two teachers who instilled the confidence to succeed, and still would relish a pat on the head

I really did enjoy school. I was lucky socially, I had a great bunch of friends and generally I enjoyed the work. I was a bit gobby, as may well be predicted, but I had a basic respect for the school and the vast majority of teachers.

In terms of affecting behaviour, Mrs Wilson leads the pack. She was my history teacher at Grangemouth High and she taught me for at least two years, probably through O-levels and Highers.

She was just one of those exceptional people. She was very strict, but also with a bit of a twinkle and you felt as a pupil that she was recognising you as a personality, not just as a kid. She had a great gift for that and a great deal of energy to be able to do it.

She wasn't a trendy teacher, she didn't make any attempt to be down with the kids or be particularly cool, which didn't make any difference. Her connection with us totally transcended any of that. She was a great storyteller. We got the dates and the facts, but they were always woven into the great stories that were there.

Mrs Wilson's skill was that she really did instil a sense of confidence in us. One of her themes that she would return to was "Look as if you are meant to be there and nobody will ever question you". It was almost carpe diem-ish. She would paint a scenario where you might feel intimidated but, in those situations, you have to steel yourself, summon up your courage, head high, march forward, look as if you are meant to be there and no one will question you.

I can, hand on heart, say there have been numerous occasions throughout my professional career where I have been bricking it, to use a colloquialism, and I think of Mrs Wilson. I can see her very vividly saying it and it gives you that little spur to walk on, stick your head up and say "good morning". That is actually a great gift to give a kid.

I have a fairly strong interest in Greek and Roman history and that was utterly because of our Latin teacher, Mr Melville, who, funnily enough, taught in the next-door classroom to Mrs Wilson. The way he taught Latin, again, was through the fantastic stories and mythology around there. You didn't feel as if you were learning, you just felt you were there hearing these amazing stories.

I always thought of him and Mrs Wilson as Mr and Mrs Pepperpot, they were so similar. Mr Melville also looked like your archetypical Latin teacher, no attempt to be cool or try to be on your level.

He had a fantastic, mischievous sense of humour, but he was strict. There was an absolutely clear teacher-pupil relationship, but he also allowed us to be personalities within that. They both did that. It was big of them, because maybe it would have been easier to treat all children like a herd.

I got a letter from Mrs Wilson out of the blue about two years ago and it really is a prized possession, I was chuffed to receive it. She very much judged people as she found them and wasn't somebody who was easily swayed by any distractions or people being on the telly. I had done Celebrity Mastermind and, by some bizarre fluke, I had won it, so she wrote me this really nice letter, saying she had seen it and had been remembering back.

Their opinion mattered to me and it still matters to me now. That is how much of an impression they made on me. You grow, up, you mature and people you idolised at one stage in your life you start to see through different eyes, but a pat on the head from either of those two now would mean as much to me as it did when I was 13.

Kaye Adams was talking to Julia Belgutay


Born: 1962 in Grangemouth

Education: Grangemouth High, Edinburgh University

Career: Trainee journalist, Central TV; presenter ITV's chatshow Loose Women; host to BBC Radio Scotland's Call Kaye morning show and presenter on Channel 5's The Wright Stuff and Radio Five Live.

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