16 September 2017

Cheryl


We were sitting in Fisher's fish and chip restaurant in Hunstanton when Shirley believed she'd spotted a familiar face. When this woman got up to leave I saw her approaching our table and blurted out, "Excuse me. Are you Cheryl?"

It was indeed Mrs Berry who had been the headteacher at my son's secondary school throughout his time there. She departed from that school round about 2001, just before our daughter went up there.

Now Mrs Berry was an unusual headteacher in that she was universally admired and respected by pupils, parents and staff alike. I remember an interview with her in the Sheffield "Star". She said that she liked to be outside her office during the school day, meeting children, talking to staff, visiting lessons. She also taught one class Mathematics every school year. Any office work she needed to do would happen when the school day had ended.

I know for a fact that this wasn't an idle boast, designed to impress because in the early nineties I had occasion to go up to that school every Monday evening and I would always see Mrs Berry beavering away in her office until perhaps eight thirty or nine o'clock.

You should understand that this was a school with a pupil population of around 1800. Being the leader of that school was like being the leader of a significant business venture. Every day brought new problems to solve, new demands on Mrs Berry's time. But she remained cheerful and approachable, refusing to surround herself with mystique or bloated self-importance like many other heads of secondary schools.

Now here's the thing. On Wednesday night she asked what our son's name was and we told her. She said that of course she remembered him but she didn't add any follow on information to confirm that knowledge. 

Afterwards, I thought - how could she remember him? He was an ordinary boy who attended school every day and was never bothersome. During Mrs Berry's ten years at the school she would have been in charge of over 4500 students and hundreds of members of staff. How could she possibly remember our Ian?

As you may recall, I was an English teacher myself and every year I taught around two hundred pupils in different classes. I saw these children for four hours a week and yet if I met one of those children's parents today it is highly unlikely that I would remember ever teaching their now grown up child.

It left me wondering if Mrs Berry always claims to remember former pupils that she chatted to in the school's corridors or engaged with ever so briefly in classrooms. Perhaps she realises it's what parents want to hear - remembrance. "Yes - I remember your little darling" and not "No - 4500 pupils passed through the school in my time. How could I possibly remember your child?"

However, I should remind myself that Cheryl was and is a remarkable human being. After leaving the local secondary school she went on to do a variety other demanding jobs and even received an M.B.E. for her services to education and young people. Maybe she did remember.

15 comments:

  1. Best not to doubt in a situation like this, but to enjoy the belief that Cheryl is, indeed, one of those special people who do have a good memory for names (and then the face to go with the name after a little thought)...along with good manners.

    For an example...Shirley recognised Cheryl....

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    1. I think you are right Lee. Best to look on the bright side.

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  2. You never can tell, Neil. My 90 year old grandmother taught 4th grade in my hometown for probably 20+ years. This past summer I asked her about a woman I grew up with (she was a grade ahead of me) who had grandma as her 4th grade teacher 30 years ago. And grandma remembered her! She said, "That girl loved to talk in class!" When I mentioned it to my friend later, she said, "Yep. That was me."

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    1. That's a nice story. I wonder what your 4th grade teacher would say about you Jennifer?

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  3. From what you say about Cheryl, she is indeed a remarkable woman and was very good at what she was doing. So, she possibly does remember your son.

    My English teacher from when I was 10-11 years old still remembered me when I saw him again 30 years later at a reunion of my old school.

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    1. I think your English teacher may have remembered you because your English is so good that you must have been an outstanding student.

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  4. I like the look of her

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  5. She backs up a lot of hew talk. She interacted with kids. She may not remember the name but could remember the kid. I live in an area where there are many former students. I meet some occasionally. They are afraid that I will not remember them so are hesitant to talk to me. It's very important that kids be remembered.

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    1. Perhaps the reason that they are hesitant about talking to you is that they are afraid they will be whacked round the back of the head once again!

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  6. My mom taught for many years and up until a little while ago could put a name to most of the former students she had. And if not a name, then the desk they sat in, or some attribute of their work. Sadly, she is losing that recall now. But having her students come up to her years and years later and talk to her was a great delight to her. Parents were less memorable :)

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    1. I wish it had been that way for me. The main reason I am Yorkshire Pudding is that I don't want former pupils tracking me down. My last school was in an area of significant social deprivation. There was a lot of nastiness there.

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  7. I was talking to a friend the other day who said she'd been to a party and a woman came up to her and asked her if her children had attended a local school. Now this was probably about thirty years ago. And they had! And this woman had been their teacher for a class. My friend did not recognize her but the teacher recognized the mother of two little boys she'd had in her art class so long ago. Some people have amazing memory for faces. I am not one of them.

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    1. I'm good at faces but not so good with names. It can be embarrassing sometimes. Thanks for calling by Ms Moon.

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  8. This is a really good idea that you have going on. manufacturing



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Mr Pudding welcomes all genuine comments - even those with which he disagrees. However, puerile or abusive comments from anonymous contributors will continue to be given the short shrift they deserve. Any spam comments that get through Google/Blogger defences will also be quickly deleted.