On my way back to Abu Dhabi from London, I saw a group of familiar faces standing around the seating area at Heathrow Airport. I tried to put my finger on where I knew these people from: church, one of the schools I’ve taught in, Bar Salsa? And then I saw her…my old Sociology teacher from college, Mrs Carver-Hughes!
I was my 17-year old-self again when I shouted her name with excitement across the terminal. I was shocked to see her outside the classroom, I suppose, even though I’m fully aware now that teachers do have lives beyond the school gates. She looked exactly the same as I remembered her and, luckily, I was the model student so, naturally, she was happy to see me.
We exchanged pleasantries, I introduced her to my husband and she told him how lucky he was to have me – isn’t that the sweetest thing? I asked about her daughter who had just entered the education system when I was back in college but is probably in university!
They grow up so fast. Where does the time go? I feel old now (and I sound like an aunty).
It’s been 10 years since I saw Mrs C-H and I still remember her Sociology lessons. She was scary at first because, as head of department, she knew how to handle us unruly inner-city South-East London teenagers. But under her tough exterior, she was the kindest, most caring and down-to-earth teacher I’ve ever met. I can appreciate her so much more now as an educator myself. In all fairness, Sociology was a great subject to teach and study because we all enjoyed the content. I remember being forced to use the word ‘hegemony’ in essays. I remember crowding around an oldskool computer watching videos about the Jonestown massacre as part of our study on religion…
Mrs C-H’s lessons were memorable because of the culture she created in her classroom.
We loved turning up to her lessons; she delivered content well, making it relatable and real, she made us feel smart and genuinely cared about us as people. As predominantly Black teenagers from working-class families, I assume she was probably one of the first White adults that believed in us and whom we felt comfortable around.
Mrs C-H became ill towards the middle of our course and we were devastated. She didn’t tell us what was wrong but promised she’d be back at the end. I don’t think I’ve ever prayed so hard in my life for anyone. We gave the supply teacher hell while she was away (sorry, we were hurting) but when she returned, we put all our excitement into getting those grades – it was almost as if we were doing it for her instead of ourselves. The majority of the class got A’s (I still don’t know how Junior got an A, he was always sneaking off to Surrey Quays?), which is testament to her teaching, even in absentia!
Mrs C-H only taught me for one year but her impact was major.
When becoming a teacher, I made sure I focused on getting to know all of my children personally and also strove to cultivate a culture where my pupils could be themselves and feel safe in my classroom. And I think I did that, for the most part.
I’m writing this to self-soothe if I’m perfectly honest. I still wonder about the impact I could have had on my pupils if I had stayed in Nottingham. Anyone who knows me knows how much I absolutely adored those children. Some of them had such difficult lives but the most generous and kindest of hearts. They were absolute gems.
The words of one of my favourite pupils* of all time still haunts me today.
She said “Miss, you’re abandoning us.” *Teardrop.* And even though I knew I wasn’t, if that’s what she genuinely thought, then that may tarnish the memories she had of me forever. And I can’t bear for that to be true.
I’m sure Mrs C-H and I had disagreements but I don’t even remember them. I think my encounter with her at the airport was just a reminder that teachers can impact us in a short amount of time, be it one year, or one month, or even a day. But that impact can influence us for a lifetime. I hope when my pupils think about secondary school, they think about me in the same way that I think about Mrs Carver-Hughes. The absolute legend.
Either way, teaching is a largely thankless task and I will have to live with the fact that I may never see any of my beloved students ever again. Thankfully, I have Mrs C-H on Facebook so I will definitely tag her in this post.
So here’s a bit of homework for you, in true teacher fashion: if you had a teacher that had a positive impact on you, why don’t you get in touch and tell them how much you appreciate them?
We definitely don’t live for the likes but it’s always nice to be made aware of the positive influence you’ve had in someone’s life! And if you’re one of mine, get in touch right now! I’d love to hear how and what you’re doing…
Chit chat: Shout out your favourite teachers in the comment section below. Who are they, what did they teach and how did they impact your life positively?
Next international teacher’s day, I already know who I’m gonna be writing a post about. The legend that is Mrs Jackson, my college Psychology teacher. Make sure you’re back here around this time next year (hopefully you’ll be here more frequently within the year too).