Things my teachers taught me


Classroom image courtesy of blondieb38, Morguefile.

I’ve lost count of how many teachers I’ve had as a student. There were Sunday school teachers, grade school teachers, junior high teachers, high school teachers and college professors.

All of them contributed to the knowledge that I possess now, but there are certain teachers who stand out in my memory. I still remember things I learned from them, years after I was a student in their class. Today, I thought I’d pay tribute to them by passing on some of what they taught me.

Mrs. C: She was an English teacher of mine in high school. She taught all of us a useful mnemonic about English grammar: “Each and either neither, all your ones and bodies, are singular”. And to forever cement it in our minds, Mrs. C had us stand up from our desks, gather at the front of the classroom, and do the Bunny Hop party dance (see the video below if you don’t know the music) while chanting this rule.

It led to a lot of hilarity and witty comments among us, but this grammar rule stuck with me. The rule means that words such as each, either, neither, someone or somebody should be followed by a verb in singular tense.

Mr. H: He was another English teacher at the same school. From him, I learned what I call “Mr. H’s Magic Formula” for writing a term paper (or anything else I need to write these days). It’s a simple formula, but it works really well when I’m having writer’s block. Here are the steps:

1. Write a first draft to get something down on paper. (Although these days, it’s more often a computer for me.)

2. Take a break for a bit.

3. Come back and revise.

4. Write the final draft.

Dr. K: He was a German professor I had at college. In German, the word for “knife” is “das Messer” and “fork” is “die Gabel”. To help us remember which was which, Dr. K told us to remember it this way, “First you mess it up, then you gobble it up.” It made the class crack up with laughter, but that stuck with us.

I remember other teachers because of their unique knowledge, innovative teaching methods or vivid lecturing style. A junior high math teacher, Mr. F, knew how to sing “Happy Birthday” to his students having a birthday. But he is — to this day — the only teacher I have ever met that could sing “Happy Birthday” in Portuguese. Mr. F also claimed that the storage cabinet in his classroom held everything but the kitchen sink. My sibling, who also had him for math and who possesses a sense of humor like me, got him a dollhouse-size kitchen sink as a joke and made him laugh.

I had one very memorable Sunday school teacher, the Reverend B. As a fun project, he had us go out to my church’s parking lot and use our math skills to figure out how large Noah’s ark would have been, using the Bible’s description.

I also recall two history teachers — Dr. P in high school and Dr. B in college — who were excellent at making historical events come alive. Take an event such as the sinking of the Lusitania or the storming of the Bastille during the French Revolution, and they would make you feel like you were standing on the Lusitania‘s deck or on a sidewalk in Paris, watching it all go down.

I’m glad to have had these dedicated folks as my teachers. Blog readers, care to share stories of your most memorable teachers?


Filed under Writing

23 responses to “Things my teachers taught me

  1. I was a teacher and it is always so wonderful to know that our sometimes madcap ways of sharing knowledge is remembered with such joy. People would say to me .. teachers should get better pay, but you see if people taught for the money then we would have the wrong kinds of teachers.. most teachers teach for the love of kids and learning and they are the good ones.. lovely page.. c

  2. rtd14

    Very well written post! I like your German professor’s way of thinking!

  3. My most memorable was Mrs. R who gave me the great gift of belief in my own talents, opportunity to use them and confidence that failure was merely a necessary (and temporary) step toward success. Her influence sustained me through many more years of school where rules and limited thinking might have sunk me. I am forever grateful for Mrs. R’s early influence.

  4. I also had many teachers that made a lasting impression but the one that I cherish most was an English teacher. Mr. M. knew I was going through a very rough time, my parents were divorcing, I was extremely shy, wouldn’t talk in front of the class, sat in the back and wrote poetry to keep sane. Anyway, he always called each student up to show them their grade before report cards came out so we could work on them is we needed to. When my turn came I stood next to his desk looking at my feet. He never looked at me, kept his eyes on the grade book. He used a piece of paper to cover all the other kids so you only saw your grade. I never looked up.
    Without looking he asked me if I had new shoes. I whispered no.
    Then he quietly said. “You are no better and no worse than anyone else in the school. You have every right to look people in the eye.”
    That was it, he didn’t make a big deal about it. I went back to my seat but I never forgot that. I was about 15 years old. Life got better after that year and I finally learned to look at people when I talk to them. He made a huge difference in my life.

  5. Thanks, this brought back some good memories of my teachers. I hope I build some of the same memories for my students.

  6. Mr. Kim . . . Driver’s Ed . . . Hands at Ten and Two. I can’t drive any other way.

  7. I enjoyed this post. I’ve been blessed with some wonderful teachers. I’m still in contact with my fifth grade teacher, and in fact, he’s known me my entire life since my mother would take me to my brother’s P/T conferences.
    Great post!

  8. We watched “To Sir With Love” (again) last night. Garry commented that teaching had the be the most important and least appreciated job on earth. And I added “and underpaid!” Three or four special teachers made a huge difference in my life. I don’t know what I would have become without them. Thanks for reminding me!

  9. When I was 12/13 I had a music teacher. He didn’t teach us any of the stuff he was supposed to be teaching us because he said it was too boring and would put a lot of us off music as a subject. He loved 60s music, so every lesson he would just bring his guitar along and teach us some of the great songs from the 60s and we would all just sit round him singing with him playing. We all loved his lesson, not least because of the rebellious nature of it!

  10. Fascinating post. I too was influenced by my teachers which included my parents and grandparents, as well as my Aunt Marge who taught me many things.

  11. My grade 5 teacher was a stickler for grammar and good English rules. Pity the child who said gunna instead or going to, or yous instead of you. My mother was also quite strict in this way, so I was never in trouble in her class, but I saw many others trembling with fear.

  12. Ah, that’s what I loved about teaching–making learning a fun and memorable experience for everyone. I miss it so much!

    I had memorable teachers, mostly because they scared the learning into me. I learned from them how to be a great teacher by using them as examples of what not to do!


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