I once asked the kid who her favourite ever teacher was. Yes, I know I shouldn’t have, because all of her teachers have been great, and it’s not a competition. But I was curious about what her answer would be.
“Mrs L,” she said, without hesitation.
Mrs L was her teacher when we lived overseas, briefly. “Okay,” I said, “and why is that?”
“Because she gave us gummy bears when we did good work.”
“Oh. That doesn’t sound too good for your teeth. Did she do anything else?”
“Well.” The kid paused and thought for a moment. “She was kind, and she was beautiful, and she told us stories about where she came from in Canada. How old do you think she was, mummy?”
“I’m not sure,” I said. “Do you think she was older or younger than me?”
“Oh, she was definitely younger than you, mummy.” (This was upsetting since I’m pretty sure Mrs L was in her early fifties and I was still in my forties at the time.)
By this point I was wondering if she was going to get to the teaching methods, so I gave her a nudge. What did Mrs L do that helped her to learn, I wanted to know.
“You remember. She got me reading by myself, by challenging me to read a bit of my book every night and write about it in my diary. We had a garden where we grew things. And then of course there was the Duck Wedding.”
To cut a long story short, Mrs L got the class two ducklings. They took a vote on names and the ducklings ended up called Billy and Quaa-Quaa. As the ducks got bigger (and I suspect more amorous) Mrs L decided that they needed to hold a wedding for them. And so it was that her class held a Duck Wedding, which I assume involved some duck wedding related accessories. In this random and completely non scientific manner, Mrs L became my kid’s favourite teacher (although all her teachers have been great and she has loved them all). But what would Nick Gibb make of a teacher who held a Duck Wedding? What possible contribution to a child’s store of knowledge could a Duck Wedding make? And did Billy and Quaa-Quaa ever recover from the experience? I’m not sure, but the lesson I take from it is this. You can take a duck to water, but you can’t make it swim. And you can lead your children to knowledge, but it’s the teacher who makes them want to dive in.