It was 1988. The Austrlalian bicentenial year and following the excitement of the tall ships sailing into Sydney Harbour, my baby brother arrived. Literally, that day. Australia Day 1988. A few days later the new school year started. I LOVED school. I was studious, concientious and well, “a goody two shoes.” As I arrived on the first day of Grade 3 I was met by my new teacher. A MAN. A GIANT MAN. Well a very big man, with a booming voice, a beard and a stern expression.
I no longer LOVED school. I just wanted to go home. Mum rushed off with the two toddlers and the day old baby and I was left…. with him. I think I spoke to him twice in the first term. He was strict and the tone of his voice was enough to send me into tears. If he told me to stop talking (did I mention I was a chatterbox?) the waterworks would begin. I thought that’s all I remembered about my “scary” teacher. Until this week.
Master O has a new stern swimming teacher. She yells a LOT. Her voice is the first thing you hear as you push open the door! She is a “mature aged” woman and she likes everyone to follow the rules. Her rules. Nobody talks. Nobody splashes. You just swim.
Occasionally she offers a word of encouragement, maybe a pat on the back, but never drips them in praise. Those kids don’t move an inch from the side of the pool whilst waiting for their turn. Suddenly, with the intoxicating scent of the Chlorine, and the anxious look on Master O’s face, my memories of being in Grade 3 came flooding back.
Great now we would go back to being scared of swimming. But……
He listened. He watched. He sat still on the side waiting for his turn. He used his manners. His swimming improved more in one week than he had all year.
It made me think about my own “scary” teacher experience all those years ago. That was the teacher that introduced me to my very first computer. He taught me not to be scared of times tables. Much to my dismay, he gave me the role of the Narrator in the class play. That’s right the part with the most speaking. I dared not tell him that although I loved to talk in class, public speaking was a whole other ball game. He must of sensed my anxiety. He told me I could do it. And I did. I had so much fun that I was promptly enrolled in Speech and Drama lessons and went every term until I was 22, which is what led me to teaching. He changed the course of my life. That one big scary teacher.
Fast forward many years and this week the “Scary Swim Instructor” was away. Instead she was replaced by a recent high school graduate and her boppy personality and jar of lollies. It took a whole of five minutes for the kids to realise she didn’t mean business. There was splashing parents on the sidelines. Swimming up and down the step and spurting water out of ones mouth (yes that was my child!) The class was full of more pool noodle games than anything involving kickboards. Day 4 of boppy teenager swimming instructor and Master O suddenly doesn’t want to go to lessons anymore. He misses his old teacher. Say what? The “scary” one. Why?
“Cause Mummy I want to learn to swim so I can go in Nanna’s pool. I don’t want to play games. I want to swim.” Out of the mouths of babes.
So I am grateful for the scary teacher, for underneath they sometimes know what they are doing…teaching. They may not be full of hugs and praise and lollies but they will push you to learn and achieve. They will offer structure, discipline and routine and sometimes in this crazy world, thats exactly what kids need.