Sunday, 27 March 2016

Who was your inspirational teacher?

Photo by RGFraser

‘La bhrea samhrain a bhi ann ….’ translation – ‘It was a fine summer’s day …‘

I recall every essay written in Irish started with this phrase in O-level year in a certain Grammar School in the north of Ireland.  It was the summer term of 1975. The phrase was practised, rehearsed and perfected in such a way that it could be rolled off the tongue to sound like a native Irish speaker. We were learning Irish. For many of us, we hoped that O-level examiners would be suitably impressed by our grasp of this beautiful language, a language that provided many challenges with its grammar and delivery.   As students, we wanted examiners to be suitably impressed with our natural flow and rhythmic sounds. Admittedly there were several ‘stock phrases’ learned by heart to impress said examiners!

Mrs S, our lovely Irish teacher was a native Irish speaker.  Her love of all things Irish – language, music, poetry and culture was remarkable and an inspiration to us in her class.  She was a teacher who had a passion for teaching.  She knew how to bring out the best in her students and she loved poetry, in particular the writings of Seamus Heaney.  It wasn’t until later years that I too would learn to appreciate his beautiful writing.

An exceptional teacher has a way with students and Mrs S had a good way with her students – us!  Her lessons were delivered with elegance, beauty and great learning.  She had the ability to relate to us as young adults, not as children, but young people who often needed to be heard and understood. Many of us at fifteen and sixteen years old thought we knew everything about life and learning!   Mrs S was one teacher who ‘got’ where we were coming from, even though there were times when we didn’t!

Through the Irish language lessons, Mrs S introduced us to many wonderful writers and poets.  She shared with us the magic and enjoyment of the rich tapestry of Irish culture. She encouraged us to participate, debate and voice our views.  She invited us to listen to each other, to be heard and work diligently.  She supported her students through exam nerves and meltdowns.

An inspirational teacher like Mrs S stays in hearts and minds for a long time.  I remember her with great fondness as a lady of elegance and eloquence, who loved teaching, poetry and Seamus Heaney.

Sunday, 6 March 2016

Who is your Woman of Substance?

Photo by me.

Welcome to the month of March - the arrival of Spring, the extending of the days and a great opportunity to celebrate womankind with International Women’s Day and Mothering Sunday.   Although it’s not as if we females need an excuse to celebrate and party!  It’s wonderful to have not one but two days set aside in the calendar to celebrate.

As part of the Attract Readers BloggingChallenge, I wanted to write something in honour of both days, International Women’s Day and Mothering Sunday. I wanted to see and understand the connection between the two days, if indeed there was one?  My thoughts wander to the females in my own family – grandmothers, mother, sisters, daughters, aunts, nieces and recently great-nieces.

As I write, I think about the great women in my life, those who helped to make me the person I am today and those helping to make me the woman I will become... a scary thought as I meander along the path of life.    I am mindful of many life lessons learned from my grandmothers and my mother.  What lessons have I been taught?  What advice have I heeded?  Who were the people who influenced me the most? What have I learned in our exchanges of discussion and debate?  How have the pearls of wisdom been passed on and ultimately used to good effect? When and how often have I retold the stories with laughter and tears? What are the words I hold close in my heart particularly when some of those I love are no longer here?  What will I leave and pass on to other females in my family? My scribbling notebooks?

My maternal grandmother, Sheila, was a practical, ‘no-nonsense’, Irish woman. She worked hard all her life, leaving school at fourteen, travelling from the South of Ireland to The North in search of work.  Surprisingly, she settled easily with different families, adapting to their ways, customs and learning of English! She was a native Irish (Gaelic) speaker.  At the time speaking in Irish was unacceptable for employment. My grandmother 'had to speak in English', as she often told us. It was probably my grandmother’s strong work ethic, no nonsense attitude, determination and sense of fun that made her the wonderful grandmother she was for me.  She had a twinkle in her eye that sparkled every time she laughed.  Her positivity and gratefulness were much in evidence during her lifetime, qualities taught to her children and grandchildren .... long before such traits became popular.

For me, Sheila was a Woman of Substance, a tower of strength, the voice of reason; the woman who listened when I thought no one else would or could.  She never said, ‘I told you so’.  She never said, ‘You can’t’.  She had a way of instilling a confidence and trust in a shy and quiet teenager – me!  She was particularly good at helping me to see both sides of the story, particularly when I went through the ‘stroppy teenager stage’ (mother terminology). My grandmother was able to help me learn (in a loving and supportive way) that I had to listen carefully to the words that were exchanged between mothers and daughters.  In my moments of ranting, I had forgotten that my mother was - of course - her daughter!

As International Woman’s Day and Mothering Sunday draws closer, I’d like to take the opportunity to applaud great Women of Substance everywhere, especially women like my grandmother Sheila and my own lovely Mum.  Is there a connection?  Yes, it is significant to celebrate great females in our lives socially, politically, and economically.  It is important to acknowledge all the work they do. On both days I will remember my great role models. What about you?