The real lesson comes from life;Opinion;News amp; Opinion

12th November 1999 at 00:00
HE NEVER talked much about his job. Each day, all weathers, he walked home the two miles at lunchtime for a quick bite and then strode back to work. Years later I found out that his nickname with the pupils was Pop.

He worked hard , and fully enjoyed his hobbies. (At least two professional actors on Scotland's small stage first trod the boards in his amateur dramatic group . ) He once mentioned a boss who had had teeth transformed through dozens of dental appointments in class time. By 30 he had been in prison (as a conscientious objector) three times, once for a year.

When I started teaching he worried that living in a mixed flat (child of the sixties!) would handicap my promotion. Such materialistic considerations seemed so out of character that I smiled . His own progress was slow - he w as a special assistant towards the end of his 20 years in teaching, and claimed that unpromoted staff at school meetings could gather in a nearby telephone kiosk.

His entry into teaching had been belated. He was a mature student at Glasgow University in his 30 s, which meant afternoon adventures for my sister and myself. Some afternoons he had no classes, we had no school, so our knowledge of Glasgow's environs grew with bus trips to Cathkin Braes or Hogganfield Loch or the exotic Western SMT to the Red Smiddy at Inchinnan.

His teaching career began in a junior secondary in the Gorbals, where he recalled a teacher being cut by tiny pieces of razor blade flicked at him by pupils. From there he moved to a newly built comprehensive before ending up as a general studies teacher in an FE college. He was dead within a year of retirement.

Why this brief chronology? Only that a recent weekend of clearing (12 bags to the dump - who needs draft action plans for a ll 16 to 18 - year - olds?) found his Teaching Practice Record for 1954-55, in both primary and secondary sectors.

" You make effective personal contact with the pupils , " wrote J F Mackie, and later : "You give the children confidence and induce good effort from them . " What better tribute ? Yet another lesson familiar to beginners everywhere : "You said , ' watch the board' - and you continued with scarcely a pupil watching the board. "

I thought o f David Blunkett's a recent super t eacher plans. Plucked from university with first or upper second s, three schools in five years (or was it five schools in three?) to "give them a range of experience". Then onward s and upward s to the elevated pay and status of nomenklatura.

The times are out of joint, my friend.

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