There are good teachers, and bad teachers. Fat and ‘fin’ teachers. Some ugly and others are pretty. Some are ‘cool’, a few are clever. Some can teach. Others are just able to recite what they know, but are unable to explain it. Some think outside of the boxes. Some don’t know about boxes at all. Some are kind, and some are bullies.  There are frightened teachers, relaxed teachers. Others are brave, and then there are the down right brilliant teachers, teachers such as he.

I would not say that I particularly enjoyed school. I would rather have spent my time with Ptolemy, my Abyssinian  guinea-pig. I did, however make an impression on one or two people.  My headmistress expelled a pupil, in circumstances that I felt weren’t right. I told her what I thought about that.  I also had a short discussion about the freedom of choice about how much money should be put in the weekly collection. I explained to another how the death of a clergy orphan’s father, was none of a class’s business, and I also spelt the word library wrong, when I moved from lower school to senior.

It seems the first R is of importance.

Probably more so than the library rules that we had been transcribing.

My year and I were told, by the English teacher who had set the work that, amongst other things, that this proved that there was little point in attempting to teach such a person, who could make such an error. In fact it was further stated that should she ever be given the rather questionable opportunity of trying to teach me, that she wouldn’t. As there was no point; so she wouldn’t do so and didn’t want to.

I suppose we must have been allowed out from the library at some point. I don’t remember much more, apart from realising I would do well to avoid having anything to do with her. She was a large woman & I remember thinking she was older than most of the others, heavy, with her greying hair plaited tight around the crown of her head – I suppose in some sort of ancient Greek style.

She taught Latin, and English and frankly, I avoided her like the plague. As did several other pupils. It was certainly worth walking down the other side of the corridor. I wasn’t very good at Latin either; I remember once receiving the great result of 11% in an exam – but I look on this as not something that was particularly my fault. After all she was the teacher, I but the pupil. It didn’t help, that I really didn’t like her. For that matter, I don’t think she liked me either. She also took the classes for those pupils who weren’t doing so well at English, as well as putting us through our paces with Latin, and I was always rather relieved to know that I was in the middle group stream – with Mr Brown.

He was a smallish man, who wore a tweed jacket with elbow patches, he had a beard and a twinkle in his eyes, slightly dwarfish in appearance. Apart from being relieved about the group I was in, I didn’t think much about him really.

Until the day he called me up to his desk and asked me whether I would mind moving down to her group, as he felt my English would benefit from a firmer grounding. To be honest the idea didn’t appeal, as you can probably imagine. It was like Mr Brown to ask, rather than arbitrarily move me to her stream. I suppose, though, the end result would have been the same, except I replied that I didn’t, (which was I’m afraid a lie), however, I knew that she would.

Mr Brown looked at me very hard, and asked why I should think such a thing, as it couldn’t be true. I replied that I knew that it was, and further that she had already stated that given the opportunity she wouldn’t, as she had said there was no point in trying. Mr Brown looked surprised, and asked me for the details of what had happened. He was sure I had misunderstood. So I explained. He turned to the class and asked whether it was true, to which my friend Philippa replied that it was, and no-one understood why anyone would bother trying to teach me – there wasn’t any point.

Mr Brown left her in charge of the class and took me to the staff room, knocked on the door and we waited. When she came out Mr Brown asked her about it. She replied that she didn’t remember. So I gave her more details. Her reply amounted to the fact that she may have said something of the sort, she really couldn’t really remember, but what of it?

Mr Brown pulled himself up to his full height, and turned on this Grecian colossus – he explained that what she had said was not true and went on to express his opinion of what she had done in words that were clear and disparaging…so much so she seemed to shrink. His anger was as all encompassing as any I have seen or experienced in my life – perhaps made more impressive as I had never heard him so much as raise his voice before. Thinking back now, I realise that even then he didn’t shout. It was just a very intense and clear statement of facts. It wasn’t even a conversation, more of a soliloquy.

At the end, he turned to me and told me that if I was willing he would prove to me and her that he was right. Would I be happy to do extra work for him – which he would mark and give back to me? I could write about anything I wished – but he would ensure I got good grades, and further would enjoy English too.

Which resulted in my writing numerous essays,  and I received two B’s for my English exams, but what is more important to me now is that he instilled a love of words, and the use of English. For that, and for standing up for me in such a way, I will never forget him, he was truly a brilliant and inspiring teacher.

Sadly a few years ago, when I thought to contact the school to let him know about how English has become so important to me, I heard he had died.

Since there is no proof either way, however, I like to believe that Mr Brown knows about my blog, letters, books and the fact that I have encouraged so many children to read and to enjoy the language.

He was a remarkable man, and an exceptional teacher.