Thursday, October 09, 2008

Goodbye Mr Wilson

This sad news passed me by. Bill Wilson, my old English teacher at Cleadon Park Comprehensive, passed away last month. He also coached me as a sprinter for a short while until we realised my heart wasn't in it.

I remember the very first English lesson, which entailed writing a contract in the back of our English books. It outlined his simple requirements - work hard, no defacing the books and homework in on time - that left us in no doubt who was the boss. Fresh out of junior school it was terrifying.

Many of his less well performing students (including me at one time) will remember "Mr Wilson's slipper". Often chalked with a target or text designed to be left on the backside in a faint chalk mirror image, the slipper gained a legendary status at Cleadon. However, pain wasn't the purpose or the effect - the sheer indignity of it all was enough to make you want to avoid a repeat performance.

But his high standards and similarly high expectations of his students' technical abilities was matched by an intuition and skill in encouraging students to nurture their imaginations. He was a great teacher.

I owe what command of grammar I have to him (which is hopefully good) and to a lesser extent his deadly slipper.

In sport, he had equally high expectations on the field and on the hills, his encouragement reinforcing a simple message: success takes hard work, but can still be fun.

And driving around in that deep purple MK3 Ford Cortina must have took some balls.

For what was a hard school, he was a suitably tough teacher when necessary, but when he smiled and laughed you couldn't help but join him.

I only knew him a short while, and it's been several years since I've spoken with him, but the image of those impish eyes and that mischievous grin will stay with me.

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