Stop and Consider! Life is but a day; A fragile dewdrop on its perilous way from a tree's summit. From Sleep and Poetry by John Keats (1795–1821) The Spirit of Man: An Anthology. 1916.
Day 16 Good Old Mister C : My life as a mature student 2007
I was asked on numerous occasions why I carried on with my college course when it was obvious, Mr C couldn’t teach. For me, the reason was I hoped to walk away known more than I had at the beginning, but also I didn’t want to let the remaining students down. At the start of the course there were eleven of us, now only three remained.
For Mr C to tell me this was his second year of teaching Adult Learning classes, and last year was a total disaster, didn’t instil any more confidence in me. He said, he was more use to teaching foreign students English or French to English students.
The course, ‘Brushing up on English’ was the British government’s attempt to raise the standard of English and Maths within the low classes adult population. It was completely free and paid for by the good old British taxpayer of which I was one of them. I left school without any qualifications and spent all my working life in low paying jobs. When I hit the big four zero, I made up my mind to overcome my biggest fear, the fear of writing. I was ashamed of not being able to fill in forms in front of others. I couldn’t spell and didn’t understand grammar or how it worked. I had failed an entry exam to get into Art College, because I couldn’t write well enough or be able to spell.
Yes, I could read well and write of sort, but ask me about verb, adjective etc, I had no idea at all. Grammar was a foreign language to me. I tried to learn it from ‘The Oxford Dictionary of English Grammar’, but it just went over my head. I knew I could just about scape by with what I understood and if hard pressed I could write a short letter and get what point I wanted to say across. Though I would take me many rewrites before it was perfect. So why, after all these years, was I bothering with self-improvement.
Quite simply my love of the written word, books, poetry, and quotations. These were my secret passion. I’ve surrounded myself with books, even as a very small child I found them to be magical. All that hidden knowledge was like a treasure chest, if you could just crack the code and decipher the pattern.
One of my earliest memories was my mother taking me into our newly, built village library in the 1960’s. I had never seen so many books in my life. My small fingers caressed the brightly-coloured pages as I stared in wonder at this magical world. A lady came over and told me I could take the books home to read. With joy, I made my selection and held them tight to me. The librarian told my mother that she needed to fill in a form to become a member of the library before I could take them.
My mother snatched the books from me without a word and we left, never to return. My mother had learning difficulties and in today’s world it would have all been done on computers, and Mum would’ve been helped too.
As a teenager, I spent most of my Saturdays in a reference library, which I discovered across the road from where I lived. There was a beautiful white Persian cat that uses to like sleep on top of the books on the bottom bookshelves. While in the library I would hide away from the other readers and sit on the floor in a corner. The cat would join me. At the end of the day I would put the books back on the shelves. One day, one of the librarians saw me and said “You’re allowed to take six books out, if you fill in a form. I shook my head, knowing I couldn’t do it. She smiled and said “I’ll fill it in for you, you just tell me your name and address. She explained that the tickets meant I could go into any library in Essex and borrow the books.
It opened a whole new world to me.
I had always separated reading from writing. I know that may sound strange to you as it does to me now. Writing was something only clever people did and it wasn’t something I could do.
So, let’s go back to the question of me complaining about Mr C’s ability to teach, or lack of it. I felt if I made a complaint now, it could be overridden by them saying they have taken note of it, but I needed to finish the course first. We were meant to fill in a form at every lesson to say how well our classes went, but Mr C never remembered to hand out our folders for us to fill them in. I know my level of understanding and my ability to read and write was on a higher level than most of the students in the class. The foreign students were highly-educated, they lack of understanding was only due to being lost in translation. One they understood how to fill in a CV they never came back.
I’d been busy reading over eighty books on ‘How to’ write since I made the decision to improve my writing. This is why I kept questioning Mr C when he seems to contradict, not just himself, but what I’d already learnt from the books.
When I was at school I believed the teachers were qualified to teach after all, they had been to university. The other students in my class had far greater need than I, which was another reason why I didn’t walk away. As ‘Lady Grace’ told Mr C, “Paula keeps you on your toes, Mr C.”
If I didn’t understand what he’s talking about, I would ask, as I did on Thursday. Where the others wouldn’t ask for clarification, and if they did, Mr C tended to waffle for a bit, and then carry on reading from the printed out sheet. Myself, I wouldn’t let it go until I fully understood.
Mr C called me bossy, but as I pointed out to him, I’m there to learn and at the moment, I wasn’t.
I’d given him every chance, and he was aware I haven’t gone behind his back. At the end, when I do complain I will be able to tell the college, Mr C was fully aware of how I felt about his method of teaching.
I want to take this opportunity to thank Lisa and the librarian whose words of encouragement changed my life completely.
I’m sure you dear reader have plenty of people in your life who through their words have changed your life too.