My Best Teacher;Interview;Kirsty Wark

12th March 1999 at 00:00
My mum believed very strongly in the value of nursery education, so when I was three-and-a-half I was sent to St Ola's, a small private nursery just round the corner from my home in Kilmarnock, Strathclyde. It was run by Mrs Tulloch, and I looked forward to going each day enormously.

I can remember sitting at very small tables in very small chairs. And I remember clearly the little tin I took with me that had my play piece in it (play piece is the Scottish word for the snack children have in their mid-morning break). I always had the same little tin with a snow scene on the front of it, which must have been an old sweetie tin. I would have two digestive biscuits with butter in the middle of them, and once a week I got a Kit-Kat.

Then when I was four-and-a-half I went to the state primary, Kilmarnock Grammar School, which sadly is no more. Miss Smith was the infant mistress in Primary One there and Mrs Kelly was my teacher in Primary Two. They were both enormously encouraging and seemed very happy to allow expression. I remember big, bright classrooms and walls covered with artwork. It was a very stimulating environment for learning.

They were quite opposite in looks. Miss Smith was very tall and thin and wore specs and Mrs Kelly was roly poly with dark hair. Their classrooms were next door to each other.

Miss Smith was a very kindly person, and I can remember on Friday afternoons we sang songs like "Yankee Doodle" and were allowed to career around the classroom.

The exciting thing about Primary Two was that Mrs Kelly was particularly keen on artwork. She was a very warm woman and I cannot remember her ever shouting. In her classroom the walls were covered with collages. We made wonderful things - like Easter bonnets - from tissue paper. I wasn't particularly artistic, but I got a great deal of fun out of making things - and everybody had something up on the wall.

I was enormously happy, despite the fact that later up the school I used to get belted - probably for being cheeky. We only lived round the corner, so I walked to school every day. I can remember everything about every single room - it is so imprinted on my memory. My mother still lives nearby, which gives me a great sense of place. I think both teachers are probably dead now - they were getting on a bit by the time they taught me.

From the age of 11 I took the bus to Wellington School for Young Ladies, which was a misnomer if ever there was one. It was like McTrinian's - the girls were pretty wild. It was a private school and I think my parents sent me there rather than to Kilmarnock Academy because they thought I would have more opportunities because the classes were smaller.

Miss Logan, who taught English, was very Scottish, very dour, absolutely like Miss Jean Brodie. She was a rigorous teacher. I was quite good at English and wrote for the school magazine, which was run like a co-operative. I remember on my final report card Miss Logan advised me not to bother with university, just go straight into journalism. I think she thought because I was nosy it would be a good career for me. I was a bit of a flibbertigibbet, interested in drama and lots of other things, and didn't stick into my work enough.

There were also two very good French teachers there whom I admired - Miss McKechnie and Miss McCallum.

Despite Miss Logan's advice I did go to university. First I went to Stirling for a year and read English, history of art and sociology. Then I went to Edinburgh to do honours in Scottish studies. And then I went into journalism. The timing was great. I was at Wellington in 1966, just when people started talking about women's liberation, and there was a great sense of "can do".

Kirsty Wark is a regular presenter on BBC television's 'Newsnight'. She is also currently presenting the Radio 4 series 'Tuning into Children' at 11.02 on Monday mornings, which has been produced in association with the National Children's Bureau. The last two programmes are to be broadcast on March 15 and March 22, and there's also an accompanying book published by BBC Education. She was talking to Pamela Coleman

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