A teacher appreciated


Today is Teacher Appreciation Day.  Was there a teacher at your school who really made a difference to your life?  There was at mine.  His name was Gary Sayer and he taught English.

I was a late developer.  I didn’t learn to read properly until I was nearly eight.  I hated writing.  I didn’t enjoy school.  By the time I was in  secondary education at thirteen or fourteen I had become difficult.  I was surly, rude, sullen, unwilling to learn – a royal pain in the ass.

I’m not really sure what was the matter – I was just rebelling against everything.  And then I met Gary Sayer – the English teacher.  He had passion for his subject that was irresistible.  He shunned conventional teaching methods, preferring shock tactics of his own devising.  One memorable lesson comes to mind.  It was a hot day in June and we were studying T.S. Elliot’s The Wasteland – a dense, long and impenetrable piece of prose poetry –  especially to a behind-the-bike-sheds-fag-smoking-fourteen-year-old.

Gary (he preferred to be called by his first name) marched us down to the river, textbooks in hand and instructed us to walk out onto the diving board balanced over the slow-flowing water.  We took it in turns to read lines from Elliot as we jumped off the board into the river.  Textbooks and clothes were ruined.  Nothing much was learned.  Huge fun was had. And, somehow, a passion for English was awoken.

Gary was a nutcase to many, a genius to me.  I loved every minute of his classes.  I learned how to write essays, how to read poetry, how to actually enjoy Shakespeare.  I learned how to try and fail and try again.  The unruly, unteachable kid who hated writing grew up to be an adult who makes his living from writing.

Thanks, Gary – you changed my life.