Throughout the world, countries are celebrating Teachers’ Day today on October 5th and here at 7Dnews we have taken a moment to reflect upon our own best teachers.
We invite you to meet these extraordinary people who have transformed our lives and hope that you too will have a chance to think today about those people who have helped you to live your life and deal with its vicissitudes.
We Become What We Admire
In secondary school, my English teacher was Amira Morqos. She was the embodiment of conscientiousness and competence. She achieved the perfect balance between being strict enough to control the class, while being lovable and approachable. We never feared her, we revered her.
She realised we were never going to read even the abridged version of ‘The Prisoner of Zenda’ or ‘Othello’, so she held sessions where she narrated the stories of the novels and plays we had to study and made them engaging by taking questions. This made reading them easier and much more enjoyable. She made me realise that literature can be just as much fun as films, in fact, the most amazing films are based on books.
I remember Ms Morgos’ commanding voice and the loud laughter coming from her classes. She was among the most respected teachers in my school, because she loved teaching and she gave us her soul.
I went to an inner-city school in north-west London, my best teacher was Melissa from New Zealand who taught Design and Technology. She also worked in curriculum support and was one of the most helpful teachers I had.
Melissa would often offer to stay behind after school to help students with coursework. She was one of the few teachers I met who cared deeply about the success of her students.
She left the school once but returned just a year later because she missed teaching. She also did charity work, helping set up a sister school in Africa. Melissa motivated and inspired me as well other students to get the best out of ourselves.
A Teacher Who Shaped My Personality
In the lives of each of us there is a person who has had a great influence in our life. But when we talk about education, we all have had one or more teacher who is credited with making changes in our personality.
I was born loving football, which I played with my friends at the club. When I grew up and went to school, I was mostly introverted and not mixing with others, (in the educational Primary Stage).
I was watching my classmates, from afar, playing football, and I always refused to play with them. One day, the physical education teacher, Mr Tarek, called me, "Ahmed, why don't you share in with your classmates and play with them? My answer was" sorry, Mr. Tarek I'm not good at playing football. "
Days passed, but on a day I will not forget, I was surprised by the teacher forcing me to play with my classmates. At first I tried to pretend I was not good at playing, but my talent overshadowed my lie!
The teacher was surprised by my talent, which he described as "mighty," and he told me privately, "why did you lie, Ahmed, and pretend that you are not good at football?” I replied," I am ashamed and do not like to mix with others."
Since that day, which was in the fourth primary stage, this teacher began to rely on me in all competitions entered by the school at the level of the educational administration, and the Cairo governorate, and even on the level of the Republic.
In the same year, this teacher, who was a referee in the Egyptian Football League competition, helped me participate in the enrolment tests of a big club in Egypt and Africa.
I achieved success and became a player for this club for a long time, until I was injured in the educational secondary stage that prevented me from continuing my career in the "world of football" until I returned to the game as a fan.
The lesson in this story for me is that this teacher has been credited with changing my introverted and cowardly personality into a completely contradictory character with courage, confrontation and intrepidity. This teacher taught me to always face my fears and to turn and face them.
The Music Teacher
“And then, ah you ripper.” Those were the words my music teacher would speak as he wrote a dictation of music onto the board. The Australian ocker accent coming in strong. For a classical musician who got excited about German opera, the sheer amount and richness of his Australian slang was most amusing.
But we loved it. Along with the small chocolate bars he placed on our desks as we stressed through our Western Art music exam.
He introduced us to Haim, before anyone knew about them, which is more ahead of the trend than I will ever be. And referred to Berlioz’s Symphonie Fantastique as an “absolute beaut.”
But perhaps the best part was the pride in his eyes, as we rounded up the year and he told us what an honour it had been to teach us. We were fairly certain we would never find as good a teacher anywhere else, and we were right.
My best teacher was a man called Michael Longley, now a well-known poet. We were a class of restless 14-year-old boys in Belfast, our expanding bodies riven by hormonal surges, and he was tasked with teaching us English. In other words, how to write, and how to appreciate literature. He made us learn poems by heart – Yeats and Shelley come to mind – mentioning in passing that girls always respected the ability to recite verse in a boy.
As he opened the magical doors of great human experience, he also, as all teachers did, tried to keep order in the class, but in a low-key, gentlemanly sort of way. He never shouted, but when necessary would silence an unruly boy with a cryptic remark as well-aimed as the piece of chalk our maths master would throw in similar circumstances.
Being a literary type, he took a great interest in how we wrote, and for me the moment I recall best was when he had one of my stories published in the prestigious school magazine. A few years later, I bumped into him in the street and the first thing he asked was “Are you still writing?” I am and thank you Mr Longley!
The Teacher Who Helped During a Dark Time
When I was asked to write a piece about the teacher whose help has changed my life during one of the darkest moments I have ever known, I could not think of anyone’s words that would be better than the Associate Professor of Spanish, at the University of Louisville, Gregory S. Hutcheson.
It was his words and the guidance he provided me with within the middle of my academic year, right after my dad was diagnosed with cancer, and was on the verge of death, while me being a million miles away from home. I went up to him, feeling down and unmotivated (since my dad has always been the beating heart of my ambition), feeling like I was ready to give it all up, when Prof Hutcheson told me, “ you are a smart student, and you can give more to the world, and I know you like to critically think everything, you can do it,” and I did. I got an A in all the courses I signed up for, during my time as a post-graduate student.
Teachers who maintain and nourish their students’ souls with humanity and understanding of the other, and who perceive students as individuals with different manners of thinking, enough to respect them sometimes as peers, those are the ones who help the world evolve. And to have a teacher who helps his or her students grow academically, emotionally, and intellectually, that is what creates the global citizen of the world, and look at how good I have evolved in teaching, and in believing even in the darkest moments you have to keep going. I can only thank and be grateful to one of my best teachers and professors of all time, Prof Hutcheson.
Teachers: Shapers of the Imagination
Fictional teachers probably shape our ideas of the best/worst teachers. From Miss Jean Brodie moulding her girls in ‘The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie’, to Miss Trunchbull terrorising her charges in ‘Matilda’, or the inspirational teacher Hector in Alan Bennett’s play, ‘The History Boys’.
It is widely thought that Bennett modelled Hector’s unconventional teaching brilliance on a real teacher, Frank McEachern (1900-1975), who taught at two leading British schools, Gresham’s and Shrewsbury.
He also worked as peripatetic teacher at the sixth forms of various other schools, travelling on one of his three bicycles, because he was always forgetting where they were, and was suitably bicycle-clipped and tweed-jacketed.
His subject was something vague called General English, according to one of his former pupils, Rosemary Hartill, the BBC’s former Religious Affairs correspondent. “He gave us something called ‘cultural lessons’, and his own pet hates among lessons were organised religion, organised music and organised games, which in his view interfered with the human spirit and its quest for love, revelation, mystery, vision, grace and truth.”
His technique with his pupils was to make them stand on a chair within a chalk circle, and recite poetry and inspirational texts, which they had learnt by heart, and which he called ‘spells’. And what he wanted for his pupils, according to Rosemary, was “to throw inspirational texts and poetry into the cauldron of young minds.” Shakespeare, Dante, Rilke, Emily Dickinson, Karl Marx, to name but a few were all thrown into the mix, in pursuit of opening up a new horizon of ideas for his young pupils.
And those pupils included not only the poet WH Auden, but Richard Ingrams, one of the founders of the British satirical magazine Private Eye.
Lucky the pupil with an inspirational teacher.
I Have Never Forgotten Her
I remember the first time she entered my class when I was in my first year at school. She introduced herself: "I will be your new Arabic teacher this year.”
Almost like a mother to us all, she taught us the fundamentals: how to learn, how to speak, how to know, as well as many other life lessons.
From her we learnt how to live, how to tolerate, how to forgive and how to love each other. She was for me the most inspirational person in the world, after my parents.
She remained my Arabic teacher until secondary school, and then I went to university. There I met many new people and many other teachers and professors, but I have never forgotten her. I have never forgotten her great advice to us about life and about our future.
Radwa ElSayed Hani
Maths Phobia No More
“Intelligence is not the secret of proficiency in this subject but studiousness,” my mathematics teacher always told me.
Mathematics had been a source of anxiety and of a feeling of failure during most of my time at school, but when Ms Layla took over, my understanding of the subject changed completely, and I learnt how to overcome general obstacles in my life.
Knowledge of ancient civilisations, stories from history, poetry, prose, and the arts in general were my comfort zone where one can have space for improvisation and reflection. Finding X, Y and Z in a linear equation simply was not my ‘thing’ at all.
I completed my secondary schooling in Egypt where high school qualifies pupils/students to get into a prestigious college/university based only on grades, no matter what skills the learners might have.
Ms Layla became my tutor during the last two years of secondary school, and she insisted on changing my mind about maths. She supported me with her words and worked hard on removing my blocks around the subject.
She used to offer me extra time to make sure that the lesson was fully understood and used to call me to boost my self-confidence before the final exams when I was at my most anxious.
She always advised me to face difficulties in solving problems by breaking the complicated ones into small parts that COULD be solved and then to keep on trying. I learnt from her that one can break down obstacles through persistence and find solutions, rather than blaming circumstances.
I am grateful to her that I achieved my best maths grades while she was my teacher. On October 5th, I can say she is the one who deserves words of appreciation for teaching me so much during my school days and for having a definite impact on my professional life.
May God bless her if she is still alive and may her soul rest in peace if we have lost her.
Bob Marley's 'Soul Rebel'
"The sadness of generations without ‘teachers’. Our teachers are not just public professors, though we badly need professors. Our teachers, once we reach adulthood, are those who bring us something radical and new, who know how to invent an artistic or literary technique, finding those ways of thinking that correspond to our modernity."
Deleuze: ‘He (Sartre) Was My Teacher"
In my younger years, when I was about six years old in the ‘hood’, I listened to songs calling upon us to "stand up for your rights", with glorious poetry about man (say ‘I and I’), perhaps a prophet or God? The teenagers in the hood danced with a ‘political’ smile on their face.
“I'm a rebel, soul rebel
I'm a capturer, soul adventurer”
That was my first meeting with Bob Marley.
Now, as Rastafarian, I'm trying to teach my little boy the value and quality of listening to Bob's songs: pure sound and beat (reggae), human rights, respect for cultures, self-education, Africanism, and how life has no small value but a tremendous one, so must be preserved.
"That until there (are) no longer
First and second-class citizens of any nation
Until the colour of a man's skin
Is of no more significance than the colour of his eyes -
Me say war."
He freed my heroes from their cages. In my long march with Marley, many of my beliefs about Rastafarianism have changed, but the essence will remain alive and vibrant.
And definitely, he was my great teacher
Thank you very much Bob Marley.
Why Did I Choose Law?
The person who most affected my life and taught me the most, was not one of my teachers. I met my hero after I’d finished college. He was a lawyer called Ahmed Seif.
I describe him as an indomitable fighter, a mentor, a friend and a role model.
When I heard him talking about law for the first time, I felt he was talking about real people not just ‘Articles of the Law’.
The “spirit of the law” is the reasoning behind why the law was enacted, what it was trying to achieve. It is possible to violate the ‘letter of the law’ but not the ‘spirit of the law’, he always said.
Those words captivated me, I felt I was hearing music. Now I am in my second year in a faculty of law after studying media and mass communications at college.
In spite of the fact that he was a famous lawyer, he always expressed great pride in being a member of a team which included more than 20 young lawyers
Since his death in 2014, I have felt great sadness in having lost him. I still feel I have many questions and need to hear his opinion, but I remind myself that he always had faith in his vision, even in moments of great fear.
My best teacher was not the one who was the nicest, he was not the one who was the most patient and he was not the one who was the most easy-going.
He was simply the teacher who had the greatest impact on my life.
Able to motivate me to go out of my way and to put in the extra effort, his honesty has truly impacted the way I work, still today.
Mr Janssen taught me German when I was in the 8th grade. At that time, I was convinced that my writing was good, and I thought there was no need to improve it.
He gave me much lower grades than I deserved and told me that I had to read the weekly newspapers in order to learn how to write better.
I was very upset when this happened, as I knew that there was something wrong with his grading.
However, the sense of ‘injustice’ that I felt, made me sit down and read the newspaper every week.
It was not until years later that he told me that he did all of this on purpose, because he saw my potential.
Back then, he was my least favourite teacher, but with hindsight, I thank my lucky stars for having had the opportunity to learn this lesson in this unique way.
Never Give up, Never Hold back
I’ll start by stating that I was not a very good student in school and was considered a naughty grouch back in year 8. I had low grades and was always getting into trouble for different reasons.
However, I had a great maths teacher who used to keep on trying to get me to sit with her during the breaks, just to get me away from the group I was hanging out with.
She believed I had real potential and despite all the other teachers’ attempts to punish me, she was the only one who was always on my side.
Her name, Nabila, means a noble lady in English and she was truly noble. She convinced me to leave the naughty group and after that I really wanted to get results. I absolutely didn’t want to get bad grades and from that time, I became the student with the highest grades in year 8 and continued being an A-grade student.
The lessons I learnt from Nabila and that I continue to apply here at 7Dnews, is to never give up when you see potential, never hold back and always push to become better and greater.
My ‘Illiterate’ Teacher
A teacher is usually considered to be a well-educated person who can teach people and affect their life according to his or her greater knowledge.
In my case the story was very different and much stranger, as the best teacher for me was an illiterate woman who taught me unforgettable lessons.
She was my father's aunt, and when my late mother and my father got divorced, she became my real mother from the age of two.
She never went to school or college and could not read or write but she was a master at teaching me how to be a man who honours his word and his responsibilities, working hard and avoiding any ‘dirty’ money.
Two phrases I learnt from her that I will never forget are first: "A man is known by his principles,” and second: “Illegal money leads to total collapse."
Rest in peace my real teacher and mother.
The Teacher Who Hopped into My Life
Mrs Leyland resembled a friendly frog. She entered my life in my first year of secondary school, her overlong black gown flapping behind her as she plonked herself down in front of our class. “I love books,” she announced in a frog-like croak. “Good books. I adore them.”
I was a studious little thing but though I worked industriously it was without enthusiasm until Mrs Leyland hopped into my life. Her passion for literature had an electrifying effect on me. Poetry! She was particularly keen on Percy Bysshe Shelley’s poetry, her voice throbbing with emotion as she read his verse.
I throbbed with her:
“Swiftly walk o'er the western wave, Spirit of Night! Out of the misty eastern cave ...”
I had not encountered anything so nakedly beautiful before and the poetry, the novels and the plays we studied with her made deep inroads into me. Shakespeare, James Joyce … the list went on and thanks to Mrs Leyland, still continues today.
A teacher at my secondary school, she taught classics and was rumoured to have lost her fiancé in World War II, which was why she had never married.
A girls’ public day school, we were expected to study hard, be modest, aim to enter the best universities, look forward to careers and love learning for its own sake. Any deviation from this holding pattern resulted in an arched eyebrow and the subtle catching of breath.
Miss A had a peaceful, thoughtful aura. She never tried to get me to like her. She simply gave me a model of professionalism, of passion for her subject and of a life of devotion to stroppy young girls (even then in the late 60s, Latin and Greek were not the ‘hot’ subjects) and of the courage to live the fullest life in spite of sadness and loss.
Good Teacher, Great Effort!
World Teachers' Day is celebrated on October 5th every year to appreciate the significant role of teachers around the world and to focus on their excellent efforts. We usually say that teachers work hard and do their best for our children. But ask yourself, do you really understand the important nature of teacher's work? Before answering, try this thought experiment:
1 - Choose a room in your home, where you gather your children.
2 - Communicate with them for a period of 45 minutes to an hour.
3 - Make a specific time for their education.
4 - Deal with their differences, paying attention to the tendencies and personalities of each one of them.
5 - Now, increase the number of children to 30 or 40.
6 - Keep in touch with each of them.
7 - Keep in mind that you may have in this room orphans, poor children or even children from separated families.
8 - Learning could be difficult for some of them. So, you need to care for those who cannot understand easily or quickly.
9 - Keep in mind that you will serve as an example for some of them, so take care of your behaviour.
10 - Repeat this process 5 or 6 times a day for 40 weeks.
Now, consider this: how much time do you need to rest and restore your energy? This process is a very simple part of what our teachers do every day, every year. So, celebrate the day by appreciating the hard work and efforts of your teachers.
As Malala Yousafzai says, "Let us remember: One book, one pen, one child, and one teacher can change the world."