Last week I wrote about Can Teachers Touch Students' Hearts? and listed some of the teachers who inspired me during my own education. Today I watched this short video about President Obama who talks about his fifth grade teacher Mrs Hefty who taught him that he "had something to say"...
...and I wondered what I would say about my teachers?
I attended two primary schools: Carnew National School in Co Wicklow, and Scoil na nÓg in Trabolgan, Co Cork. In Carnew my first teacher was Mary Keating. I don't remember very much about her Junior Infants class, but I do have one memory that I carry with me to this day. She was the first, and last, teacher to hit me in class. I don't remember her being cruel, but she did use a ruler as corporal punishment. When once I was slapped it was for not knowing the answer to a question. I figured out very quickly that if I learned my lessons, did my homework, and was able to answer questions - I would not be slapped! Perhaps this is one of the most important influences I have ever had during my school years. But my favourite teacher in Carnew was Seán Hallahan who was my teacher in 4th class (1969/1970). He was funny, passionate, caring, and tough. He had a brilliant way of making things simple and stating the obvious. He often asked "What is white wash?" to which his answer was always "a wash that's white" - I use this a lot in my own classes to this day. In Scoil na nÓg my teacher was Tomás Ó Riordáin - a tough, but fair teacher. I learned a lot from him, especially Irish and History. He was the only teacher I ever had that made Irish an interesting subject.
I also attended two secondary schools: Cistercian College Roscrea in Co Tipperary, and FCJ Bunclody in Co Wexford. In Roscrea, John Shanahan was my stand-out teacher. In teaching French, he spent almost the entire first year concentrating on the spoken, rather than written French word. He was also my introduction to technology in education - I posted about this last September. He was my French teacher for five years and I enjoyed his classes very much, though I now have very limited French due to lack of practice. In FCJ Bunclody, Tony O'Loughlin (no relation) was both my English and Geography teacher. He had much more of a focus on exams and getting the subjects done than my teachers in Roscrea had. He made you want to work hard, learn, and do well. It also helped that there were only a handful of lads in a mostly girls class, and I think he had a tougher focus on us.
In Trinity, I had many lecturers who I would rather forget. For example, one Physics lecturer used to come into class, and transcribe his notes onto an overhead projector for us to copy down. I don't think he ever looked up from the OHP, and certainly never engaged us. He was clearly bored with teaching, and he made no effort to hide it. But the standout lecturer for me in Trinity was Dr Frank Jeal. It was he who gave me an interest in Zoology (especially paleontology and marine biology). He regularly delivered lectures with no notes, and he had a knack of telling interesting stories about long dead dinosaurs. He was also very approachable and accessible, and to me, was one of the few Trinity lecturers that had an interest in what students had to say.
So to my favourite teachers - a big THANK YOU!