Our school had just three rooms and two teachers in 1968. About fifty pupils, in eight classes between two teachers.
It was one of those long tall system built schools that used to be dotted all around the country, the kind that had cloakrooms for boys on one end and for girls on the other least the male and female garments might mingle and get up to some mischief during classes.
The three main rooms of the school were joined by a long corridor where impatient children would que for entry to classrooms, for entry to bathrooms and for entry to cloakrooms to recover our still pure unmolested coats at the end of the school day.
It seemed half our day was taken up with standing in lines waiting. Were we being prepared even then for a life of dissapointment? Life waiting to be told what to do? Well no, I dont think so because despite the shortcomings in the system and the time spent queing, we had something that set our little school apart. We had spectacular teachers who cared. In particular, a head master who was passionate about his job and the children he taught. For four years I sat along with the five others who made up my class, progressing from his left to his right, towards the windows and the light, towards enlightenment as we moved from row to row, moving from third class to fourth, fifth and sixth. No walls seperated classes just a strip of well worn cold wooden floor. And he taught them all, children from about seven year to twelve years old, different classes, different curriculum, different needs and he was all things to all children.
When he retired after 25 years of service to education, he disappeared from view and when he passed away he was celebrated in a low key ceremony. He had earned trumpets and drums, his service to education deserved plaudits and speeches. There were none. I still talk about him and remember him with fondness, even if my relationship with the classroom at that stage was somewhat transitory and my interaction with teachers one of opposing sides in a minor conflict.
I must have spent enough time around the school master because I recall a vast amount of his teaching but what I remember most is how he taught us to learn for ourselves. He taught us to be thinkers and questioners. He was that most wonderful of things, a born teacher, an educator. There will not be his likes again I think.
Eulogy For A Gifted Teacher.
To mould the minds of generations
And to take joy in it.
To encounter the meanest of intellects
And to see the potential there
To move them to interest
Where no interest before had lodged.
To inspire in them a love of knowledge.
These were your gifts.
Teacher, coach, motivator, friend
Standing unarmed before the enemy,
A man with only the earned experience of years
And the ability to hold them in the palm of his hand.
Your greatest gift, not the ability to teach but the ability to inspire.
To seed in them a desire for knowledge
To make of them, self taught men and women
To take the raw clay of child and make from it a whole person.
From the sons of farmer and fishermen
You crafted leaders, entreprenuers, carers and poets.
You made of them more because you cared
You sent them out to the world ready.
And they became.
And each new year they came
For a quarter century they arrived.
Every autumn a new assault
Snotty noses, tears, wide scared eyes
And you tamed them,
You made their hearts and minds your own
So that they would become reflections of you.
Your tools were simple.
Competition so they would strive.
Art and science so they would understand.
Tales and legends of their shared history so they would be brave.
Craft so they would survive and thrive.
And lastly empathy and understanding so they would be beautiful people.
You became part of each one.
So when they left they took with them a part of you.
But each part taken increased rather than deminished you
Your legacy will be not only in their lives but in the live of those they teach.
Their pupils, their apprentices, their children
For the greatest gift you gave was the ability to communicate
So your influence will not wane with your passing but will grow and spread.
You will become greater as the years pass
You will became that which we called you.
You will become Master
You will become.
Dave Kavanagh February 2015