Friday, April 22, 2011

Mr and Mrs Cook

Some of my secondary school teachers I remember very clearly and I guess some I don't. The ones I don't recall, I have forgotten about. Kinda follows hey. The stern maths teacher who threw his chalk at those of us who struggled with calculus was not necessarily a good teacher (Mr Roberts, assistant principal). The gay art teacher who the female students hungered after was not a great teacher (Mr Kirk). The failed builder who became a woodwork and mechanical drawing teacher was not a great teacher (Mr Start). At least our French teacher could speak French though (Miss Kelsall).

One who did instill some passion and interest into her students was the loopy music teacher (Mrs Williams). She was fond of clothes and although quite an age, she was often to be seen in alternative clothes of the times, such as ponchos, maxi dresses, boots, etc. She regaled us with tales of her husband who had dementia. Lawn mowing at 2am amused us greatly. She adored US music writer Stephen Foster and music of America's slave period. She was also very interested in her 16-18 year old male students. Eventually it all became so obvious that even we kids were aware of it and so she had to go.

But then there were Mr and Mrs Cook, Stanley and Maude. The word around school was that they weren't proper teachers. They were not qualified. They were imports from England to help with staff shortages. Regardless, Mr and Mrs Cook were there for my whole secondary schooling.

I'm afraid we all played up terribly on them. They were so easy to bait because there were such nice people. Yes, they were old fashioned and old school and their teaching methods may have been out of fashion but they were sincere and cared about the subjects they taught and their students.

'Andrew, I know you are interested in history by the questions you ask and I know you can write reasonably well but this last essay shows me that you just did not apply yourself and I can only give you a mark of 3/10.' She was right about that. I never did apply myself and I never did homework. School work was for school. I still believe that to perhaps a lesser extent than then.

'Is there some problem? she asked in a very motherly manner. 'No Mrs Cook.' 'Please try harder Andrew, I don't want to fail you'. I think I scraped past.

Mrs Cook had either a skin cancer or cyst removed from her cheek. She was wearing a large bandage. I caught up with her in the corridor, 'Mrs Cook, are you ok now?'. She beamed. 'Yes thank you Andrew. It is kind of you to ask'.

Mr and Mrs Cook were in the sixties I guess, while most of our teachers were in their twenties and thirties, so even the other teachers viewed them as an anachronism, yet I remember them both very fondly.

There was one other older teacher, Mrs Phillips, the librarian. She was quite stern but also had great cred because in the 1970s she drove the classic FJ Holden from the 1950s and it was a shiny well maintained one at that.

You know, the youngest, the most hip and cool teachers at the time received no more respect than the oldest. Possibly even less.

Generally though, I can't say I liked school. In fact I hated it. It was years of boredom and the day I left I was over the moon happy. Of course if I had children now, I wouldn't be telling them that. Haha, children indeed. It occurred to me the other day that when Dreaded Nephew was born, his grandmother, that is Mother, was my age.


  1. trigger my memory of Mr and Mrs Lenthall at my school.

    I can sense a blog post emerging.

  2. I remember three teachers who knew their subjects and loved teaching. My primary school grade 7 teacher, a substitute history teacher from America in the second term of my first High School year, She really made History come alive for us, and the Irish Math/Science teacher. He taught the first year students Math and the second year students Science.
    And one other, my second year Math teacher. For those two years I actually enjoyed and understood Math.and Science.

  3. It sounds like Mrs. Cook was nice; and I think it was very sweet that you asked about her health.

    I agree about homework. Kids are in school six hours a day. That's enough time to do school work. For the rest of the day they should be playing and learning what they want to learn.

  4. What a great post Andrew - 10 out of 10 and an elephant stamp on your book.
    My school had a tranny but it was after I left, drat. We had some shockers and some charmers and one of my contemporaries wrote a book about it all which is hilarious and brave.
    She did change 2 names though, which I thought was funny.
    Our Year 10 Science teacher used to stride into the room and without even looking at us say, just as he slapped his books down on his table bam! "right Burchett and Brown stand on your chairs you are troublemakers and I want you where I can see you".
    The old perve was just looking at our legs.

  5. And very amusing it was Victor.

    Funny River, some teachers can be ok, but some just seem to hit the spot.

    Dina, it was one of the nicer things I can recall doing. I agree about the homework. Schools are trying to teach kids too much.

    Thanks Ann. I can who one of the naughty lasses was.

  6. Good stuff re teachers - you kght be interested in my "catholic" education experiences in the '60's which I posted some time ago

  7. Reminds me of one particular teacher I had in year 8 or 9 for history. She was a bit mentally fragile, and as kids do when they detect a weak spot we worked on it, the whole class. I suspect the other classes she taught did as well and she was gone within a term replaced by a more mentally robust teacher. Perhaps there other reasons that she left, but I remember we weren't surprised when she did go.

  8. Lordy MC. I forgot you have been around blogs for as long as I have. I will read later.

    The thoughts of it trouble me Ben. I can only salvage my conscience with thoughts that they weren't cut out to be teachers.