"If you can read this- thank a teacher". I saw these words together with the logo of the National Union of Teachers on a sticker in a car's rear window sometime back in the 1980s. A teacher myself at the time, I recall my first thoughts, "Jolly good show. Tell 'em how it is!" Almost immediately, however, I was pulled up short by the realisation that the teacher to whom I owed my literacy was not a member of the NUT nor, indeed, of the profession but my own mother! Limited as had been her own schooling, back in the late 1920s and early thirties, she put a considerable effort into teaching me to read. The extent of her success may be gauged by my first Junior school report, which I still have, in which I was ranked first out of forty-six and by the fact that I had the top reading age when, in the following year, my reading ability was assessed. I would not altogether dismiss the efforts of my schoolteachers but until I scored in the end of year tests I was so insignificant that the form teacher had difficulty remembering my name correctly. My mother had done very well and in remembering this I felt chastened.
It is very easy for teachers to imagine that what they do is important. It may well be, but despite the current obsession with assessment, the extent of their contribution in any given case is by no means certain. The news, yesterday now, that a thirteen year old boy had fathered a child with his girlfriend of fifteen brought the usual claims of the need for sex education. Am I missing something here?
If the story is true- and I think that a big if personally- then he clearly knows more on the subject than I did at that age. From this point such "education" becomes superfluous. Someone seems to have done the teaching quite successfully.
Perhaps we should thank a teacher?
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