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.