Friday, January 9, 2009

Good Teachers - Primary School

Today I am going to share a tribute to the teachers I had in Primary School and share the impact they had on me as a learner and now as a teacher.

Kindergarten - Mrs Sykes
My kindergarten teacher introduced me to the world of school and offered me the opportunities I needed to grow. My mum had been teaching me to read at home, and Mrs Sykes let me read Dr Seuss books to the class. She also realised my potential with spelling and allowed me to go to Year 1 in the mornings so that I could do spelling lessons with them.
As a result, I try to give my students opportunities to show their extra learning to the class and provide opportunities for student extension.

Year 1 - Mrs Slater
I loved Mrs Slater. She could play the piano like no one else I knew, and I loved the way she played Gobbolino the Witches Cat. I remember the day Mrs Slater paired me up to work with a little girl with no hair who had leukemia. After that day, we became the best of friends. When Mrs Slater left the school to have her babies I was very disappointed to say the least!
I try to include music throughout the year as it is one way that we can bond as a class. I also mix my kids up often so that they have a chance to work with different class members.

Year 2 and Year 3- Miss Boyle
Miss Boyle had a great sense of humour. When she sneezed she made a huge production of it and the whole class would roll backwards to pretend she'd blown us away. On April Fools Day she came to school and pretended she had no voice! She read poetry and jokes to us every day. She introduced us to poems such as The Triantiwontigongolope and Extremely Naughty Children (which we performed for the school concert). She had a great system for teaching handwriting, where you went at your own pace, but couldn't move on until you got it right (I had trouble with writing fs!) She got us writing and publishing our own books with cardboard covers and all - I was so proud of my first book and wanted to become a writer! Miss Boyle also gave us opportunities to be creative, teach each other and explore our own interests. She gave us some Free Time Days which we had to plan in advance - we could even do cooking if we wanted to!
As a teacher, I try to give my students choices when it comes to special activities. I'm nowhere near as funny as Miss Boyle, but I do try to infuse poetry into the year in one way or another.

Year 4 - Mr Nethercott
I've mentioned Mr Nethercott before. He is the teacher who opened up the world of computers to me. He was on the cutting edge of technology and offered these opportunities to us as we learnt. That year we did research projects on dinosaurs and were able to use computer resources to help us find the information. It was a lot of fun. He also introduced me to the idea of class meetings, where students get to have their say and share their ideas.
I try to introduce my students to computers and provide opportunities for them to explore and become familiar with new technologies. I use class meetings or circle time to allow students to have a voice.

Year 5 - Mr Davies
Mr Davies liked to be called Sir Davies. I used to love his spelling lessons because he would give a whole story behind the words and explain the vocabulary. We learnt about words like phosphorescence and haemorrhage. (You don't know how proud I am that I spelt those right without spell check!) Each night we practiced spelling and times tables and had our parents sign off on them. I loved the challenge of learning these things off by heart. Sir Davies also gave us a lot of choice in the tasks we completed for our Sea and Space units of work.
I share relevant stories from my own experiences with my class. I try to extend kids' vocabulary and spelling according to their needs.

Year 6 - Mrs Burns
Mrs Burns liked to be thought of as the Dragon Lady. On the first day she yelled at me for bending down to pick up my pen lid! (I think it was that whole 'Don't smile before Easter' logic.) At the end of the year she wrote each of us a poem about ourselves. Mine has been locked into my brain ever since and I reflect on it from time to time when needing encouragement. Mrs Burns was big on poetry and presentation. I enjoyed this year as I tried to make my work look beautiful and had opportunities to have a go writing poems of my own. I particularly enjoyed our unit of work on convicts where we each chose a convict name and history and adopted that character. We kept a diary in character as we learnt about the experiences of the convicts as they travelled to Australia and started their lives in this new country.
I try to write encouraging notes to my students and give them a personalised Christmas card at the end of they year. I try to find ways to really engage students in the unit of work, like the imaginary journey we took for our unit 'Are We There Yet?'

As you can see, my teachers have had a huge impact on me both as learner and now as teacher. I was surprised by just how much they continue to influence me today. I also realised how important each teacher's unique style was - if I'd only had the one teacher all the way through, I wouldn't have benefited from the variety of talents and interests each one had to offer.

How about you?
  • Who was a teacher that had a significant impact on you as a learner or teacher?
  • What is something you do in your teaching that you were taught as a child?
  • In your opinion, what makes a good teacher?


  1. Mr Twomey was my grade six teacher. He was scary and ruled the classroom completely - no one would dare cross him. Yet he was the one who recognised my strengths and interests; he transformed my messy scrawls into copperplate and calligraphy; he used classic poetry for handwriting practice and we had to learn them - I can remember Brownings "Pied Piper of Hamelin" and MacKellar's "My Country" to this day. Once you had earned his trust you were allowed to stay in at lunchtime to work (although I remember more talking than working) and you could be the monitor for stamping work.

    In my classroom I look for ways to give each child something unique - an extension of an interest or a special skill. I share with my kids some classic stories and poetry, as well as the Latin and Greek roots of words - still as learned from Mr Twomey way back through the mists of time.

  2. My 2nd grade teacher was creative and curious, it validated my curiosity and is a BIG part of why I'm a teacher today (I've even been blessed to have 2nd graders for the last 7 years!)


I'd love to hear your thoughts and questions. Please don't be shy...