Thursday 4 October 2007

Bad Teachers : Part I

"Dóchas Linn Naomh Pádraig" I sang, hopelessly out of key. Whack. Another smack on the bottom. "Your people all had music. Start again" my teacher growled. This was about 1981 and I was in second or third class.

My teacher, let's call her Mrs Heavyhand, was unspeakably incompetent. The amount of learning that she imparted in the three years I spent in her chaotic classroom was almost nil. She spent most of her time literally running after her pupils in a caper that was mostly comic, but often violent.

The central plank, so to speak, of her teaching practice was the stick. Her arsenal was formidable. The standard issue was the ruler, mainly used for minor infringements such as talking. Next came the metre stick - employed with ferocity for any act of throwing or shouting and against noted trouble makers at the back of the class. Her nuke was the broomstick. She called on the broom-shaft for general breakdowns of order and to punish capital offences such as fighting or climbing on desks.

Many parents were aware that Mrs Heavyhand was both violent and incompetent. And a few parents were bold enough to complain to the parish priest. But their protest fell on ears that were as deaf as they were conservative. Nothing happened. Mrs Heavyhand continued to ply her brutish version of Irish schooling until the day she retired, by which time hundreds of children had passed through her boorish and incapable hands.

In all her time she taught a single but valuable lesson: Ireland must find a way to deal with bad teachers.

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