‘Oi, sir!’ was the bellow from a London street.
When I hear this call I usually prepare for one of two things: some sarky pupil comment about the colour composition of my outfit or a parent wishing to have a lengthy chat about their child. So, I was not expecting to turn around and see an ex-pupil, taller, fully bearded greeting me with an ear to ear grin.
After his subtle greeting, this student began profusely thanking me for the impact I had made on him when he came to our school in Year 11. He arrived at the start of the academic year having found mainstream schooling incredibly difficult. He had already been excluded from two within the borough and was just finishing his tenure at a Pupil Referral Unit. I remember this stocky gentleman sitting at the back of my class with his Key Worker who monitored him for several weeks like a security guard, checking whether he would make the transition back into ‘normal’ school smoothly. And he did! Smooth it was not- he nearly got his hat-trick exclusion but he won the war. The war over himself- all his personal failures and flaws.
During our roadside conversation he thanked me for “saving his life”. Yes, those were his words, not mine. He said I “made” him like English which I wasn’t quite sure whether to take as a compliment or not. Perhaps I had converted him by the sword (not my usual method for fostering literature appreciation I add!). Nonetheless, this chap was extremely grateful for my input in his life. I stood, awed by his words of gratitude. He expressed that his life was headed nowhere (or perhaps towards the criminal justice system) and I turned him around. He was now heading to university to study Computing and Business. What a triumph! I was reminded of the words of the late Mandela; Education is the most powerful tool we can use to change the world. Perhaps, just perhaps I was changing the world one student at a time.
It’s moments like these which rekindle the flames of passion and remind me never to underestimate the role of a good teacher.
N.b. A good teacher is more than one who gets ‘Good’, even ‘Outstanding’ lesson judgements. In fact they may be considered ‘Satisfactory’ yet their contribution to society is ‘Phenomenal’.