Defying teachers and elders until they see you – My English teacher, she saw me

Ever feel the condescending tone? You’re too young – You’re not educated enough – You’re not equipped – You’re an outsider – You’ll never amount to anything

Young people need to be seen, they are not fodder for the economy.

Teachers on more than one occasion would encourage my school friends to keep away from me because I was a bad influence. I’m not sure that I was a bad influence, but I was most definitely an influencer.

What teachers didn’t comprehend or maybe they had to comply too much to the curriculum to focus on the students. I wasn’t going to fit into the education system. What does society do with young men like me don’t fit in?

If I were a product on a factory production line, I’d be instantly taken out and stamped ‘FAULTY’ or ‘APPROACH WITH CAUTION’

You can mass produce things, you can’t mass produce effective education and training.

Sitting at the back of a high school class wasn’t a sign that I was a delinquent, it was a sign that I was bored and not engaged. I had no reason to be.

I want to be that teacher that the student remembers for the right reason.

I remember plenty of teachers, not always for the right reasons. I’ve had my share of teachers and headmasters shouting at me, picking at me, pushing me and caning me when caning was still legal. My parents never knew and I’d never tell.

Then that one teacher comes along that sees you.

My English teacher who wasn’t deterred by my so called misbehaviour. She never bugged me about homework or my lack of participation in a subject I feared most (English). It’s as though she saw me, engaged and challenged me. She picked up quickly that I wasn’t that good at reading and writing, but talking and debating, she worked on that.

She was so strategic in connecting. All the students had an assignment to create a visual presentation of their choice and give a talk to the class. So many students prepared amazing projects and were very articulate in their speech. I prepared nothing.

When it was my turn to share with the class, she gave me no slack, I had to represent. The class was waiting and she stared at me waiting for me to respond. I thought quickly, took one off one of my shoes, walked to the front and gave a ten minute presentation on how to tie a shoe lace.

She got me involved and started asking questions about shoes, laces, different styles of doing up the laces. I answered her questions like an expert and the class started firing questions. I made up answers and joked around engaging the class.

I got one of the highest marks in the class because of my ability to hold the audience together with a shoe in my hand talking about laces for ten minutes.

Is it a surprise – I ended up being a public speaker on subjects from family, business, ethics, discipline, social change etc..

I failed English according to the education system and every other subject in high school. I left school at fourteen years of age but I got a taste of significance and connectivity by an English teacher. She seemed more interested in connecting with a young human being rather than stress each other out on subjects I had little to no appetite for at the time.

My English teacher would never know the impact she would’ve made in my life. My appetite for reading and writing was switched on at seventeen years of age, both haven’t been quenched yet. I think she’d be delighted that forty years later I’m still writing every day, I’m reading every day and I think I’m getting better by the day.

Is it a coincidence that I married an non conformist brilliant English teacher who sees her students as human beings. A woman who knows her husband still hates the industrialised education system, go figure.

Life is not black and white, thank God. Your gift may not be apparent yet, just don’t allow others to dismiss you if they don’t care about you.

Pic taken Easter 1986, the night I organised an outreach with about eighty people in middle of the night club district in Perth. One of the night clubs called Eagle One emptied out onto the street. The owner of the club called the police to stop the outreach. I knew my rights at twenty two years of age and the police left me alone. This was the night my brilliant wife to be gave me a lift home from the outreach, we got married six months later.

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