A supportive, kind and caring secondary school teacher can make all the difference to how students experience university.
An Audience with Adele on ITV last month provided us with laughter and some iconic moments, filling us with raw and genuine emotion. Above all, it made us think about the people who have encouraged and supported us throughout our lives. Asked by Emma Thompson who inspired her when she was younger, Adele went on to chat about the memories she has of her English teacher, saying that, “She really made us care and we knew that she cared about us.” This moment was followed by an emotional on-stage reunion between former pupil and teacher, leaving the audience in floods of tears and us at home reflecting on those who made an impact on our younger selves.
For many of us, the goal for school was to get out as soon as possible, leave it all behind and move forward on to bigger, better and brighter things. We grow up, we let ourselves free in the world, and very quickly, high school becomes a distant memory. However, if it wasn’t for the lessons we learned and the teachers who committed themselves to make us better people, we wouldn’t be where we are today, wherever that may be. A “good” teacher is hard to define because everyone reacts differently to different learning methods, teaching styles and personalities, but the majority of people will have had a handful of teachers that shaped their high school experience.
For me, I loved high school. I worked hard, I received good grades and I got on well with the majority of my teachers, but I am almost certain that without the help and support from my French and German teachers I wouldn’t be at university studying modern languages, let alone almost halfway through my year abroad. They always believed in me, even when I didn’t believe in myself. By the time I left school, both teachers had taught me for at least four out of my six years there, including for my Advanced Highers in my final year. They had seen not only my language skills develop and improve, but also watched me grow as a person, breaking out of my shell and becoming more confident as the years went by.
My German teacher, in particular, who was also Head of Modern Languages, went above and beyond in offering me opportunities to expand on my language skills, giving me the best possible start at university. I was so fortunate to be allowed to study Advanced Higher German by myself and the amount of effort my teacher put in for that to be possible was incredible. As numbers dwindled, there would be the worry that the German class would not survive another year, but every year, she never gave up fighting for all of us who wanted to be there and take the subject. All it would’ve taken was for that class to not run for one year and I would not be studying German today – that’s how much of a difference she made to my studies. As for my French teacher, it was in her class that I discovered my love for languages. She encouraged me to choose a second language when I was only 13 years old and continually pushed me to use more complex language and grammar in my work. It was very much a “what you give, you get back” situation, but I was more than happy to put in as much effort as I could to be able to get the praise, the feedback and to keep learning.
With all that said, having a good relationship with a teacher is so much more than what they can provide you academically. One of the reasons that I loved both teachers so much was that they were very down to earth and, most importantly, human. Adele commented on it about her English teacher too – there’s more to teaching than teaching, and it shows because they’re the ones we remember several years down the line. Both of my teachers always made class fun. They told stories about their years abroad, their university lives and careers as teachers, which made me want to travel and experience these things. Last week, I visited Jena, which is the city where my German teacher had taught for two years after university. I had heard so many stories about life there that I couldn’t not go and see it for myself. It’s the little things that stick with you, but it’s the bigger picture that they paint in your life, generally, at university, and beyond, that truly matter.