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Bores and inspirations


He never noticed that the Great Trek involved a gambling cowboy and a pretty barmaid in the Silver Star Saloon

Photo: Supplied

I achieved some kind of academic record when I was at school. I wonder whether it is still unbroken.

After a history exam I was called in to the teacher’s office and given an almost tearful talking-to. I was the only boy he had ever encountered in his long teaching career, he said, who had scored nought for an exam. Zero marks. Zilch.

How could I have completed an entire examination paper without managing to get a single fact or date correct?

I think I mumbled that history was so difficult that my brain shut down completely the moment I opened a history book.

The next day I managed to switch subjects and left the history class for good, opting to take art and art history, which was much more fun.

Interestingly, I managed to score 100% in my history of art exam the following term, and can still spout some useless art history at the slightest provocation.

The truth of the matter was not that history was difficult.

It was simply that the teacher was the most boring and uninspired human I had ever encountered.

His classes consisted of one pupil after another reading from the textbook while the teacher dozed. We soon realised he was not even listening to our reading and tested him by switching to cowboy books and adventure stories when our turn came to read.

He never noticed that the Great Trek involved a gambling cowboy and a pretty barmaid in the Silver Star Saloon.

I probably included them in my record-breaking exam paper.

The art teacher, however, was an enthusiastic and vivacious woman who managed to reveal a treasure trove of colour and patterns in everything around us.

Every one of her lessons was a voyage of exciting discovery.

I hope our schools are full of teachers like her, because it doesn’t matter what subject is being taught, good teachers can make them exciting while bad teachers can turn them into mental sludge.

I’m sure most of us remember great teachers from our school days. I certainly do.

There should be some way for former pupils to rate the quality of their teachers so the inspiring ones can be recognised and rewarded.

Maybe we should be invited to fill in a form a year after leaving school, giving our teachers scores from one (useless) to 10 (inspiring). Enough 10s and you get a promotion.

You’ve probably left a legacy of great achievers who will enrich the world.

Those who score less than three get sent back for remedial training.

You’re probably responsible for producing nothing better than politicians and other gangsters.

Last Laugh

The piano player in the bar had a pet monkey sitting on the piano collecting coins.

A man came in and ordered a beer, took a sip and turned to look at the pianist.

The monkey sneaked up behind him and spat into his beer.

“Hey!” shouted the man, “do you know your monkey just spat in my beer?”

“No,” said the pianist, “but if you hum a few bars I’ll probably pick it up.”