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Education

My experiences of teaching from both sides of the desk

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First of all, I should say that I have never been a schoolteacher or a college lecturer.  My working life was largely office based, which I mainly enjoyed. As far as teaching goes, my experiences are over forty yearsago.  In my twenties, I assisted students with reading in an Adult Literacy Class. As a late reader myself, I remember the effort to learn to read at the age of eight, and grew to hate the “Three Little Pigs”, the reading book used at the time. Then I was a Mother Helper at my daughter’s Playgroup.  There I realised how difficult it is to control large groups of children, when a three old boy injured another child, by throwing a toy car at him. His swift and expert aim, missing an eye by a fraction, was a complete surprise to me and no doubt to the unfortunate child.  Finally, I became a Sunday School teacher. I fared a little better here, as the majority of the children were on their best behaviour. There was only one child, who I often had to physically reseat in his chair!  
 
I can only speak of my own experience of teachers in primary school in the 1950s, up to leaving university in 1969. I am not qualified to write on the changes in education that have taken place over the years. My own children’s schooling in the 1970s and 1980s passed off uneventfully from comprehensive school to sixth form college and university.  
I read in the media of parent’s difficulties in getting their children into schools of their choice and of the stress of teachers, dealing with ever increasing workloads. Since Covid-19, teachers are now front-line workers, risking their health and forced to use online technology for remote learning. 
In the 1950s my own primary school experience coincided with the conquering of Mount Everest by Sir Edmund Hillary, believed to be the first man to reach the summit.  I recorded the progress of learning my multiplication tables, by ascending to a new base camp each time a table was mastered. I did this by placing a peg in the appropriate place, on a picture of the Mountain, until finally a peg was placed triumphantly at the top!  I remember having difficulty with one teacher, when I persisted in writing the figure eight, by drawing two 0s one on top of the other.  She became exasperated when she thought that I was adding up incorrectly, until I explained to her that was the way I wrote 8. I don’t think that she was too happy with the explanation either. 
 
After the initial success of climbing Mount Everest, my progress in Maths was close on zero in secondary school.  Algebra was a complete mystery to me, and so at the age of seventeen, I found myself taking a GCE 0 level in Biology, as either a Maths or Science subject was needed to get into University. Biology itself had been a struggle, until a teacher arrived in the nick of time to capture my interest in human physiology, enabling me to pass the examination. 
 
It has to be said that there are elements of luck in education. The previous science teacher had sadly been unable to teach and was dismissed from her job, which was unusual at that time.  In 2010 a BBC Panorama programme revealed that only eighteen UK teachers had been struck off for incompetence in forty years. It was estimated that seventeen thousand more teachers were not up to the job.  Luckily, having read “The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie” by Muriel Spark, I can say that I never met such a character in the course of my school days.  Miss Brodie exerted undue influence on her pupils, with her extreme political views and favouritism, while asserting that she was in her prime.  The book illustrated the responsibility of being the teacher of young impressionable children. 
Whatever excuses can be made for bad teachers, in my opinion there can be none made for bad college lecturers, who do not have potentially unruly or difficult children, with which to contend. Those students who reach them should already be “creme de la creme” I had a bad experience as a fresher, going to a redbrick university to read laws. 
 
I opted to study Roman History, which I thought would be interesting. However, I could see that this was not working out, when a few weeks into the course, the lecturer announced, quite proudly I thought, that, nothing he said in his lectures would be of any help in passing the examination at the end of the course. I swiftly changed to Roman Law, where the lecturer was proficient and I quickly grasped the concept of the paterfamilias and how to sell a slave!  I can see from reading forums that students are still having trouble with bad lecturers. One suggestion for dealing with this was that the student’s union should be consulted! 
Given the high personal cost of further education, it is imperative that any such failings are addressed. 

In the nineteen sixties I worked in London stores. Worked as an Insurance Clerk in the City of London during the nineteen seventies. Divorced in the nineteen nineties. Now I am a retired Civil Servant, managing home and garden and escaping onto social media whenever possible.

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Education

Do you know your Aphorisms from your Adages and from Proverbs?

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” Hoping for the best, prepared for the worst and unsurprised by anything in between ” Maya Angelou “I know why the caged bird sings” Autobiography. This is an example of a proverb, written in poetic language, offering advice. The Old Testament has a whole Book of Proverbs, giving instruction on how life should be lived.
 
An adage is a treasured observation, passed down in time and accepted as being true. It might, for example be handed down from a Buddhist text, or come from Adagia, a collection of Greek and Latin adages and proverbs. The observation that ” many hands make light work” is taken from Adagia.
An Aphorism is a direct definition of proper conduct. The word was first used by Hippocrates, the Father of Medicine, when writing his “Aphorisms of Hippocrates.”His first Aphorism  states that ” Life is short and Art is long, the crisis fleeting, experience perilous and decision difficult. The physician must not only be prepared to do what is right himself, but also to make the patient, the attendants and the externals cooperate “. These words hold true in medical practice today.
 
 
Other examples of aphorisms  are ” He who hesitates is lost”, ” “Actions speak louder than words”, ” Tis better to have loved and lost, than never loved at all” This last aphorism by Lord Tennyson, has become something of a “cliche”, which is an over used phrase that has lost its impact.
 
Further examples of adages  are “Eat to live, not live to eat” ” “Birds of a feather flock together” and “Early to bed, early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise ” There again it is possible to lapse into cliche, a danger with phrases in common use.

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Education

Is anything ever apropos, or has the word disappeared from general use?

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The saying first appeared in the English language in 1668, borrowed from the French word “apropos,” meaning literally “to the purpose”. Since then, it has been used as an adverb, adjective, noun and preposition. It is a very versatile word. The correct pronunciation is ap-ra-po.
 Sometimes it is used as a synonym for appropriate, but this is a deviation from its original meaning. Rarely it is used as a noun, when saying that which is referred to, has apropos – relevance ( noun) In French avoir de l’a propos.
 
” Apropos of Nothing”, the title of an autobiography by Woody Allen, is also an idiom, where the meaning is not deducible from the individual words. The action has no relevance to any previous discussion or situation – the opposite in fact to the usual meaning of apropos.
Used as a preposition, it leads on to further discussion of a subject of event, to which it refers. e.g ” apropos the proposed changes… ” As a preposition, apropos finds a place in formal letters. e.g ” apropos the receipt of the deed … ” Using it as an adjective, Charlotte Bronte wrote to her friend that ” Your letter coming is very apropos” If the wording of Charlotte’s letter had been ” Your letter arrived apropos” then Charlotte would have been using the word as an adverb.
 
If this is all Double Dutch to you, probably you will take the view that the word has indeed disappeared from general use. There is of course no reason not to use the word, either in spoken or written form, where it is relevant.
Bonne chance!

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Education

How was your day?

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How was your day? This has become my standard greeting, when opening an evening chat with a friend. Back comes the reply “the usual” This means that the day has been like the day before and probably the day before that.  Is that a bad thing? I suppose it depends on what “the usual” means for you. It could be a cause to celebrate. Another day has passed, with nothing to disturb the daily routine, and this brings with it some contentment. 
 
 If your usual day is grim, for whatever reason, the reply ” the usual ” will come with undertones of resignation,  meaning that you have faced and survived another day.  People for whom “the usual” means “pretty good” may have no conception of your usual, which to them would seem unbearable. 
 
No doubt there are a myriad of self-help books, with advice on “being positive” and on not “catastrophising” and it is true that if these books inspire fortitude , they can be of help.  Especially during the pandemic, there are people, who find themselves in desperate situations,  cut off from family and friends. Nevertheless, it is essential that they do seek help and if asked “How was your day?” they do not reply “the usual”.

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