Inspiration v Perspiration

Reading a touching and poignant post by Jennie Fitzkee this week here, the subject of having an inspiring teacher cropped up and brought me back to my senior school.

I pretty much enjoyed school and by the time I entered the sixth form was attuned to learning. But my then history master, a new recruit to my school opened up something in how to learn that made me want to do more, go the extra mile and find out the hidden stories.

I was taught to self educate. It was a harsh lesson, with Colin deriding our spoon fed mentality. We’d grown used to a text book telling us what we needed to know. The lesson Colin drummed into us was that if a text book has any purpose – and most of the time he thought them at best misleading and at worst downright deceitful – it is as a staging post to our real learning, setting us on a trail to the source materials.

How can you know what X or Y thought if you don’t read their actual words rather than someone else’s version of them? To begin with it was hard work but, soon enough, we understood we were finding our own version of events.

That’s when we learnt about our own biases, how we bring ingrained prejudices to our reading and interpretations. He was a short, swarthy moustachioed Trotskyite but he hid his politics most of the time in order to highlight our own unknown leanings. One time we sat in on a talk given by a representative over the South African embassy – this was the 1970s and Nelson Mandela was entering his second decade of incarceration on Robbin Island. Colin showed his colours that day, but what I remember vividly was the mastery of his brief. The embassy man had details galore but for each ‘fact’ Colin had another. If, he showed us, you want to argue with a steadfast opponent, know your material and know theirs too.

I believe university would have been a huge challenge for me but for what I learned. And ever after the Joy has been in the journey even more so than any form of answer.

Realising, with the help of an inspiring teacher that learning is a life long pleasure is in itself a delight. I hope everyone has had someone like Colin Boun. If so then like me they can count themselves very lucky.

About TanGental

My name is Geoff Le Pard. Once I was a lawyer; now I am a writer. I've published several books: a four book series following Harry Spittle as he grows from hapless student to hapless partner in a London law firm; four others in different genres; a book of poetry; four anthologies of short fiction; and a memoir of my mother. I have several more in the pipeline. I have been blogging regularly since 2014, on topic as diverse as: poetry based on famous poems; memories from my life; my garden; my dog; a whole variety of short fiction; my attempts at baking and food; travel and the consequent disasters; theatre, film and book reviews; and the occasional thought piece. Mostly it is whatever takes my fancy. I avoid politics, mostly, and religion, always. I don't mean to upset anyone but if I do, well, sorry and I suggest you go elsewhere. These are my thoughts and no one else is to blame. If you want to nab anything I post, please acknowledge where it came from.
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37 Responses to Inspiration v Perspiration

  1. Ritu says:

    I so hope I end up inspiring others!!! 🥰

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Thanks for letting us stroll down memory lane, Geoff. Hugs.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Good read, affecting. I know what you mean – the person I learned most from was the one who made me realise that the more you know, the more there is to learn and know. And also how satisfying it is to keep on learning.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. That’s the hope. That one day we find someone who inspires us. To constantly try to expand the mind and the imagination. Sometimes this can happen remotely. I can think of one history teacher maybe. But as a kid I remember listening to Patrick Moore and Carl Sagan, thinking this is just so amazing.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Darlene says:

    The best teachers show us how to learn and show us that learning is fun. He sounds like a real gem.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. It sounds like Colin would be a dream teacher for sure. Have you been able to tell him of his influence?

    Liked by 1 person

  7. It seems that most people have at least one amazing teacher in their memories. Except for me. I was a non-conformist and still am and people don’t like that.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Jennie says:

    I wish everyone had a Colin as a teacher. Can you imagine if every student didn’t take everything they read as face value? Colin wasn’t preaching his opinions (like many college teachers do), he was pushing you to find your own opinion. And that is the joy and inspiration of teaching!

    Liked by 2 people

  9. Rowena says:

    Hi Geoff,
    I’m going to come back and read this properly, especially as one of the WWI bios I’m working on was a teacher. However, I just popped over to share an incredible rescue story which took place here in Australia this week and after our discussions about the Autism Spectrum, I particularly wanted to share this with you:
    Best wishes,

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Rowena says:

    Hello Geoff,
    I’m back again. I’ve realized recently that I’ve been through a shift and instead of expecting to be told the answers and my role was simply to memorize it all, I now don’t like being told what to think, which can be a little confronting at Church. I don’t agree with everything either and that’s confronting. Well, it would be if I actually spoke up.
    As you’ll recall, I’m working on these WWI bios and it’s made me aware of how we have to put our stamp over the voices of others a bit like a dog pissing on every tree it comes across and I think there’s a lot to be said for just letting these people speak themselves. The only trouble with that as a writer is that you’re not doing any writing and you become more of a cut and paste expert.
    I’m not sure if any of my school teachers taught me how to think for myself. However, I remember a tutor of mine for Australian Literature telling me to push my answers further and I didn’t get what she was talking about because I was already getting distinctions. It seems she thought I could get those elusive HDs perhaps.
    Blogging has been very good for me and exposed me to so many stories and ideas and people putting arguments together. I’m sure it done me the world of good.
    Best wishes,

    Liked by 1 person

  11. I had an inspiring history teacher too, but a stage earlier at O Level. She was very young, I always thought it was probably her first job, which makes it even more amazing how good she was at making us think and argue our own opinions, rather like your Colin. I threw some of the advantage away, unfortunately, because I changed schools for A Level and was so far ahead to start with that I got a bit complacent and lazy. But I redeemed myself at university, and here I am still chasing history to this day!

    Liked by 1 person

  12. I wish those lessons (sourcing, awareness of self-bias, grasp of both sides of an argument) were part of everyone’s education. I’m glad you shared these memories.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Elizabeth says:

    I had a similar teacher for junior year English in high school. He had us sit down with a poem and no outside sources and try to make heads or tails of it. He refused to tell us what “it meant,” trusting us to read it for ourselves. I used that same approach when I taught my college literature classes, but had to train my students not to look to me for the “secret meaning” they were sure English teachers knew about.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. noelleg44 says:

    A perfect post. One of the things I tried to impart to my students was the joy (and need for) lofe long learning. As an academic, it came naturally, but since retirement I’ve found myself continuing to explore.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. A good teacher is worth their weight in gold I can’t learn from a book I have to have some kind of experience. Peter Vogt Made us experience history in a way that makes me remember his lessons to this day. I am still learning but I salute the teachers

    Stay well and Laugh when you can

    Liked by 1 person

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