One of the best teachers I’ve been involved with is a bloke who has been known to wear a skirt.
Not always, mind you. Just special occasions. And no one dares to snigger.
He’s a Pacific Islander. One of those Samoans built as wide as he is tall. With a neck ready to serve as a tree trunk if needed.
His passion, outside family and footy, is teaching. He has a gift. The ability to educate. And to get through, where others fail.
Visit him at school, and you’ll find a classroom that’s alive. There is learning in every corner. And fun in the air.
We met him a few years back, when The Teenager was lucky enough to be put in his class. It remains her favourite year of schooling. And her most productive.
He encourages students to achieve, in whatever field they can. Not great at maths? Have a go at music. Do your best, and you’ll be on the end of a High Five.
There would always be songs played in his room at lunchtime. Someone would get a guitar out. The boys would be dancing. No time for bullying or bitching.
They had a pact, the students and their teacher. One in, all in. If someone was doing the wrong thing, they’d all suffer the consequences. The power of teamwork, on show in Grade 6.
Away from the classroom, his influence was even greater. If there was a game of touch football happening during the day, he’d be part of it. The footy coach, of course. He was a leader of the cultural group, so important in a school full of kids with so many different backgrounds.
Lots of them do it tough at home. So he would give them hope. And something to do. Keep them busy.
I know of so many youngsters who’ve been given a path to succeed, thanks to his perseverance. Making them believe. Walking out of that school gate, feeling good about themselves.
It’s crucial. Even when parents are on the job too. Together, it gives the kids every possible chance. They enjoy their schooling.
Daughter Two was crushed when she was allocated a different teacher this year. So were we. She would have done so well under him. But even in another class, he helped her. A wisecrack in the playground. An encouraging word. Sometimes that’s enough to make the day a little brighter.
We said our goodbyes to him, at last week’s Year 7 graduation. The end of an era. The school has been home to a daughter for the best part of a decade. Next year, the girls will be back together, in high school.
I shook his hand, and thanked him for all that he’d done. Not just for our children, but all the others. It didn’t seem enough. His giant hand crushed mine, and he smiled. Sadly.
It was his last week too. He’s been moved on. The Education chiefs, in their wisdom, have decided he needs to move in a different direction. To a small school, many hours away. I wonder if the parents there have any idea how lucky they are.
He was wearing a necklace made with lollies, carefully constructed by his class. It was straining around that giant neck. I got the feeling that he won’t be eating them any time soon. Like us, he’ll want to hang on to the memories.
Thanks Mr T, for believing in so many young people. We’ll never forget the bloke in the skirt.