Friday, 16 October 2015

If they teach I will learn

I have just finished reading this book, Love may fail - Matthew Quick, that I really enjoyed. Anyway, a lot of the book is about a teacher who was different and made a difference, and the scholars remembered him decades later.

It got me thinking about teachers I had at school and college that added something extra to my life. 

These are the ones I remember, but sadly I don't recall their names, even though I tried to Google it. Let's face it, I went to school and college before the Internet, before email, before cellphones, before the fax machine, while man landed on the moon. My Maths teacher, my English teacher, our photography lecturer and an arts lecturer are the ones I remember.

The maths teacher was so passionate about her subject and, honestly, what a difference that makes. When she gave us an equations to solve it felt like a puzzle that had to laid out, a formula that could be decoded and finding the solution was exciting, a great challenge, an adventure. Solve x=y. 
I was probably just average at maths but I loved that class.

Our English teacher. His name almost appears on a memory card in my mind but I can't see the name without my glasses ;-) Anyway, he had to teach poetry once a week to a bunch of teenagers, poor man. (He was also my hockey coach). He was smart enough to realise that we would be bored silly with old English poems so he brought in vinyls. He would play the LP and then we would discuss the lyrics. Amazing and interesting how different and varied the interpretations were. We did eventually get to Robert Frost and I have bought many collection of poems over the years. I have also bought the volume we used in English class, A Poet's Sphere, at a second hand book shop. I still open it from time to time and read my old favourites. But what a great introduction to poetry and a different approach that created appreciation.

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I -
I took the one less travelled by,
And that has made all the difference.
Robert Frost

My father had already instilled a love for photography and I was excited to have it as a subject at college. Our photographic lecturer wouldn't let us use our cameras until we understood how photography worked, not until we had made a pinhole camera and taken a photograph with it. He insisted we buy old film, the more distant the sell-by-date the better, so that our images would by grainy. (Long before  photoshop and the digital age.) Experimenting with the development of our photographs in the dark room was encouraged and a memory of the smell of those chemicals lingers at the edge of each of my old photographic prints. We had to explore black and white photography before we could move on to colour, had to . It was great, inspiring.

Mrs Leviseur, our arts lecturer. She was unique, really one of a kind. Created lovely pieces of art. She gave us each one as a gift when we left college. I asked her if I could have two. She said I  was a piggy, but gave me another one anyway. She didn't work to deadlines but to a completed piece of art, it was finished when her eyes told her heart it was done. She would get so absorbed in her art she would forget about time, forget to eat. She sewed all her clothes by hand (she only wore dresses).
She made silkscreen look like paintings, they were so layered. She made the colour grey interesting. A great artist, a gentle soul. She showed us it didn't matter to fit in, just fit in your own skin - be comfortable with who you are.

Each person you meet teaches you something but for those that you can remember three or four decades later with admiration and joy, knowing they shaped who you are in some way, to those I say thank you.

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