Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Mission Monday

I have been away for a while. I’ve been ill, and also lacking inspiration. Severely lacking, but now, thanks to Carmen, I’m back.

Each week she has Mission Monday. And this week the challenge is to write about school and a favourite or inspirational teacher.

I loved school. I was bright and enjoyed learning, but didn’t need to work hard to excel, so had plenty of time for socialising. I ought to have been a prime target for bullying – clever, liked to read, glasses, not pretty – but I always had good friends, who would stand by me. And I also had a big gob, and always gave as good as I got. So I became popular by default, like the honourary geek in the cool kids gang. I had a lot of friends and a lot of fun.

As far as teachers go, I was damn lucky. Over my early years I had some great teachers – Mrs Chester, Mrs Browne, Mrs Hlavaty. At A level, I took physics, chemistry and biology, and was taught by a fantastic group of young male teachers – Mr Wood and Mr Berry for physics, Mr Hutch and Mr Crees for chemistry and Mr Perry for biology. All in their twenties or early thirties, they treated us like adults, with lots of irreverent classroom banter, but put in 100% in everything; in the classroom, in organising trips, in getting us the best resources we could have. And in return, we gave back 100% - in our work, but also in irreverent banter!

One teacher in particular stands out though. His name was Mr Sloan, and he was my music teacher at secondary school. He probably wasn’t the best teacher in the classroom, but he taught me so much about enjoying music, and gave me so many opportunities to perform. Mr Sloan was fairly young – not that I thought so at the time! – and a very talented pianist. He gave me the confidence to sing my first solo piece in a school concert, and told me to go for it when I was offered a part in the chorus of Nabucco. Once the first hurdle was overcome, he went out of his way to provide me with the chance to sing, and was the best accompanist I have ever worked with – able to transpose anything to any key and follow you like a shadow. And he was just a lovely person – mad as a hatter, and bizarre, but sweet and kind. He left my school when I was in my final year, and I often wonder what happened to him. I don’t think I would be the person I am today without his encouragement. Being a solo performer, a singer, is such a key part of myself, and he gave that part of me the chance to grow. Before I was a musician – part of the orchestra or choir, but he showed me that I could be a singer, and a damn good one at that. He was also a good friend, and even had breakfast with my family on one memorable occasion!

Since starting at medical school I have met some inspirational teachers and some truly terrible teachers. But none have changed my perspective on myself and how I present myself to the world as much as he did. Maybe I would have found my way here anyway, and certainly others have taught me much about singing and performing. But I never had the chance to thank him for what he gave me. Maybe one day I’ll bump into him and be able to say it. I hope so.

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