Because we’re worth it…

I used to ’employ’ a house painter who was excellent at his craft. He was not, however, the greatest conversationalist in the world – but then he wasn’t hired to chat – his forte was painting and decorating. After each completed job, he would leave me with the sincere invitation to call him if I ever needed to be ‘touched up'(!) This, for your information, would occur roughly every eighteen months or so when he would be asked to return – because his work was outstanding.  

I also called upon the services of a plasterer once, to redo a ceiling which was small by comparison to that of the Sistine Chapel. He, nonetheless, earned himself the nickname ‘Michelangelo’ due to the length of time he took to complete the work. This work he directed from the safety of the floor (with a great deal of sweeping arm movements and in some sort of plasterer’s lingo), to a feckless ‘apprentice’ up a shoogly ladder. Thinking I was putting a little more work his way, I asked his advice about a rather undulating wall which I felt could benefit from being skimmed. I know that timing is everything and I should point out that this exchange took place late one Friday afternoon when he seemed to have morphed into ‘Roadrunner’ and was tearing around the room gathering up the tools of his ‘trade’ faster than I had seen him work all week (the feckless apprentice having been sent out to ‘wait in the van’, thus ensuring he wouldn’t see any money changing hands!!)……

‘So, what do you think….. about the wall?’

‘To be perfectly frank, Mrs Mac, I fail for to see whit your proablem is, exaccly…….’

‘Granted, it’s not too obvious in this light but when I switch on the lamp it’s really noticeable…….’ 

‘Hmmmm, aye, ah get whit yer sayin’…… but see’fit wis me?…. ah jist widnae borra switchin’ ralampoan…….Goad! iza’ hauf three a’readies.!!’…. and off he went  in a puff of plaster…. never to lighten my doorway again.

This is the point I’d like to make. Professional trades people need to be exemplary at one thing – their chosen trade, in which they should take great pride. If they wish to advance in their career then they will acquire valuable business acumen and hone their people skills along the way, all the while maintaining a passion for, and a pride in, their work. This, along with ‘living  life’  enhances knowledge thus gathering experience. In turn, these same people can become the good role models for younger learners. Good role models are essential for every potential worker, skilled or unskilled, as all are vitally important to society.

Before young people choose their career path it goes without saying that the early educators have a hugely important part to play in setting these children on the correct path. Along with the family unit, teachers are  undeniably  the most influential role models a child can have – and they need to be exemplary at one thing – teaching. In years gone by – BC (Before Computers) – children had to be as good as they possibly could be at ‘The Three R’s ‘ – Reading, (W)riting and (A)rithmetic. Now, nostalgia is not what it used to be and there is a lot to criticise about education then – but there was a lot that was good and effective.

My father was a steelworker. He left school at fourteen but he could read, he could write a beautiful letter, beautifully, he could speak in all companies and he could spell. Not all children attended classes then as poverty and disease were rife but there were standards both at home and at school. Now, these standards demanded that a teacher be proficient in the ‘Three R’s’ as well as being able to impart knowledge about nature, history, geography, art, handwork, story writing, poetry, religious studies, music….. and more besides. Candidates would never have been allowed to graduate from training colleges otherwise.

We are now in the twenty first century and what lessons have we learned from the past? Yes we have learned some things most of which involve technology of one kind or another but when I hear of a present day teacher who cannot spell, who has a ‘fear of maths’ or who cannot string a grammatically correct sentence together ……….  it begs a few questions : Who advised her /him of a career in teaching? Who accepted her/him for training? Who allowed her/him to graduate? Every child is special and every child deserves to have assistance in planning a suitable career. Every child deserves to know the truth about themselves, to be encouraged to develop their true potential and to know that they are valued for it. Every child should be given the confidence and self esteem to be all they can be – using the skills and talents with which they have been gifted.

Each one of us has something good  to contribute to the ‘Great Tapestry of Life’  and whether it is just the one stitch or many – we need to learn to value everyone’s contribution. We at the moment can see only an underside of jumbled threads and colours – the whole picture is, as yet, to be revealed….

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An important exam was in progress. Talking was not permitted. As the supervising teacher walked up and down the rows of pupils he felt a tug on his jacket. Turning round he saw wee Jimmy’s tortured face mouthing ‘Sir! Sir! gonnae tell us whit thon wurd says????” ‘James, my boy, you know I cannot answer any questions!’ but James had by now a tight hold on his Harris Tweed.

‘Sir! Sir! Jist this wanst….Ah’ll no ask anyfink else….’The teacher was, that day, in a particularly good mood and knowing full well that James had little hope of making anything of the test paper, glanced quickly where James’ nicotined digit was pointing.  So as not to encourage other pupils to ‘try’ his good humour, he hissed  as quietly as he could, ‘Utilise, James, it says utilise.’ He attempted to walk on but wee Jimmy had lied  – he had another question to ask ‘Sir! Sir! gonnae tell us whit i’means??’ Patience wearing thin the teacher whispered resignedly, ‘ It means, use.’

‘Aaawww’ said wee Jimmy knowingly,’us!’…

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The classroom was particularly stuffy as it was now accommodating  two classes of pupils (an emergency!) The teacher addressed wee Sammy: ‘Sammuel, go and open the door and let some air in…..’ Wee Sammy left his desk, went to the door, opened it, looked out, closed the door and returned to his seat. ‘Sammuel,’said the teacher in dismay,’Why did you close the door?’ ‘Please Miss, there urnae any mair!’

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