Ah, the crisp days of September, when we remember going back to school. I can still smell the leather school bags, visualise the new school books, neatly prepared pens and pencils (ballpoint pens were not permitted in my day – perhaps they were thought to prompt careless handwriting) and recall that feeling of starting out on a fresh chapter of life.
I now think it’s a great privilege to be a teacher and to play such an influential role in the formation of young minds. Everyone remembers an inspiring teacher (and some people remember some pretty dire ones, too). The message a teacher imparts can stay with us for life – and return in later years with renewed understanding.
I can’t say that Mother Margaret Mary was a noticeably inspired teacher. Her pedagogical skills were concentrated on the down-to-earth rather than on any soaring flights of imagination. But she gave advice to us teenage girls which I think could still be usefully deployed.
“Girls,” she used to say. “You will encounter many vexations in life and you will have to overcome them. But listen to this: don’t be ‘chippy’. Nobody likes a ‘chippy’ person – one who takes offence at the slightest provocation. Don’t go around looking for insults, or always thinking you’re hard done by. If you think someone has been disparaging about you, brush it off, and do something else.”
Young people today face a different world, and teachers are given different tools to tackle the problems of their pupils, but isn’t the counsel “don’t be chippy” still quite relevant?
We know how much social media can be a forum for bullying, and how deeply disturbed by verbal abuse and hurtful insults some young people can be – to the point of self-harming.
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