Today, 5 October, is World Teachers’ Day. The day, created by UNESCO in 1994, aims to mobilise support for teachers and to ensure that the needs of future generations will continue to be met by teachers.
There are approximately 60 million teachers and 12.5 billion people in education worldwide (according to UNESCO figures). That’s a lot of learning. Think of all that homework! And all the red pens! And yet it’s not enough – UNESCO estimates that 6.8 million more teachers will be needed worldwide by 2015.
We all have teachers who made an impression on us. Some inspire us to follow our dreams and help us to achieve our potential. Others are memorable for different reasons. Particular memories of mine include a primary school teacher who brought in home-made puppets and wrote the best school play I was ever in – I still remember all the words of the songs – and a geography teacher describing the water cycle by leaping around the room pretending to be water droplets called ‘Al’ and ‘Bert’, who met in a cloud and became ‘Albert’.
I also remember the physics teacher who could be distracted from any lesson plan if asked a question about stars or planets – useful if the topic of the day was a boring one – and the deputy head so terrifying that the mere sound of her voice booming out down the corridor was enough to have even the most rebellious pupil tucking in their shirts and straightening their ties.
Then I remember the teachers who retreated into their offices for crafty cigarettes halfway through a lesson, and the ones we suspected of having a sneaky lunchtime drink, and the headmaster who stood so close to the edge of the stage at assembly that one day he fell off into a row of first-years.
To celebrate them and teachers everywhere, here are some amusing illustrations of the teacher-pupil relationship from the Wellcome Library, London. In the first, children are encouraged by their teachers to take up boxing. The female teacher on the left coaches one boy, saying ‘Now be careful Sir, and mind what I told you about popping in your left.’ Next, a professor is asking a medical student for a prognosis. It is not clear to me whether the professor thinks his student is the one behind the desk or the bony specimen in front of it! Then we have an illustration of a schoolroom with animals as teachers and pupils -we’ve all been through lessons that feel like that. And finally, a group of schoolchildren and their teacher visit the dentist for their half-yearly appointment. The young man in the chair is advised that he is ‘strongly requested to be a man, and please make haste’. Poor thing!
‘Teachers of the British school, Llanymddyfri’, John Thomas, National Library of Wales, CC-BY-NC-SA.
A female head teacher in a Milawi village school directs childrens’ responses to two male trainee teachers. Wellcome Library, London, CC- BY-NC-ND 2.0 UK
A female teacher plays the shamisen, Japan. Wellcome Library, London, CC-BY-NC 2.0 UK
Teacher Ms. Arshelous Derkaloustian helps children use mirrors to perfect their mouth shapes for speech at School for the Deaf, courtesy of Anatolia College, public domain image.
Two male students pipetting with teacher, Wellcome Library, London, CC-BY-NC 2.0 UK
Children encouraged by their teachers to box Wellcome Library, London, John Leech CC-BY-NC 2.0 UK
A professor asking a medical student his prognosis Wellcome Library, London, CC-BY-NC 2.0 UK
A schoolroom with animals as teachers and pupils Wellcome Library, London,CC-BY-NC 2.0 UK
A group of school children and their teacher at the dentists Wellcome Library, London, By: Horace Mayhew after: George Cruikshank CC-BY-NC 2.0 UK