This week’s topic for the #YourEdustory challenge: How are you, or is your approach, different than your favorite teacher? got me thinking about who my favourite teacher was and there was one clear winner.
Yes that’s me with my eyes closed (back row, left)
Peter Clutterbuck was my grade 5 teacher. I thought he was awesome (although that word wasn’t commonly used back then) and very nearly as silly as his name sounded. My memories of grade 5 are of a slightly anarchic classroom where anything could and did happen. I remember having lots of laughs but I’m pretty sure we worked hard too. School was never dull that year. Mr Clutterbuck was the acting headmaster at the time and was frequently called away, often leaving me, or one of my similarly “girly-swot” friends “in charge”. The trustworthy amongst us also took turns at sitting in the office to answer the phone. Our country school of about 200 students seemingly didn’t have any clerical support and, although every other year there had been a headmaster without any teaching duties, in this particular year we were making do. I really don’t know what the background to the circumstances were but I have to say I loved the feeling of importance, sitting in the office and begging the phone to ring! We got to do many things that would be unthinkable these days. I remember being sent to the shops quite often to buy supplies for science experiments and art projects and also being sent home (almost daily for a while) with my new puppy who didn’t follow me but would arrive sometime after school started and sit whining outside the classroom door.
Mum, Mr Clutterbuck says “If that dog comes to school again…#$%$^&*”
I remember Mr Clutterbuck as a teacher who inspired and provoked curiosity. He made everything seem exciting although being in his class could be dangerous at times. Mr Clutterbuck was a smoker and, as bizarre as it seems today, he smoked in the classroom, often perching a lit cigarette on the chalk ledge. Occasionally he would pick up a piece of chalk and attempt to puff on it, then, as he realised what it was, he would throw it (quite hard) at a random student. Hanging on a cupboard door was a sign reading “Rule 1 – the teacher is always right. Rule 2 – if the teacher is wrong, rule number 1 applies.” I know variations of that can be found all over the place but it was the first time I’d seen it and never has it been more true!
It was in grade 5 that I really firmed up on the idea of becoming a teacher, quite possibly because Mr Clutterbuck told my mum I’d be good at it! Many years later, when I first worked in a P-12 school, I found myself cataloguing teaching resources written by Peter Clutterbuck and I’ve often wondered since if it was the same Mr Clutterbuck. Today I did some searching but it seems Peter Clutterbuck the author has successfully avoided having his photo online.
For the purpose of this topic I think it’s just as interesting to reflect on how I am similar, as well as different, to Mr Clutterbuck. One thing I do love to do is give kids some responsibility. The library monitor program which I started last year has been very successful with a long list of kids wanting to have a go. One thing I ask them to do is to answer the phone if it rings when they’re on the circulation desk. This has caused great excitement and led to scripts being written on sticky notes so they know what to say. I like the surprise the caller gets.
I’m not sure that I’ll ever be as successful as Mr Clutterbuck, but I like to make things exciting and fun, to mix things up and try new ways.
How am I different? Well, I’ve never smoked in class, or thrown anything at a student. I certainly can’t draw on the blackboard like he could so I never tried to. I’ve never been confident enough to bend the rules as much as he did (and there’s so many more rules these days) and I know I’m not always right.