Friday, September 9, 2011

How a strict British teacher nurtured my love of reading

As I've mentioned before, my parents were missionaries in Beirut, Lebanon, for a couple of years when I was a little girl in the mid-60s. For twelve months--the last part of 3rd grade and all of fourth grade--I attended a British school called Manor House. (The portrait of Queen Elizabeth II hung in the school's lobby.)

I recently dug up some things I wrote reminiscing about my time there. Here you go:

Miss Gardiner

My second year at Manor House (I was in the fourth grade) started out calmly enough--until our new teacher from England arrived--Miss Gardiner.

Miss Gardiner terrified and awed me. She was stern, strict, overly puritanical in my opinion, and unkind. My classmates shared my terror of the large old lady with the iron-gray hair worn in a braid encircling her head and a round, bespectacled face.

I remember how it annoyed me when, after lunch, she would clean her teeth with her tongue. How she terrified me when she hit my best friend, Nadia Nash, for cheating!

Nadia was part Lebanese, part British, and spoke with a delightful French accent. Her mother was a popular French and music teacher at Manor House, and we were the best of school friends. I shared her tears over the humiliating corporal punishment Miss Gardiner had administered to her.

I was fond of reading books, which I kept on my lap away from Miss Gardiner's eyes. So you can imagine my horror when she punished Serena McClelland for doing that very thing! Serena was the beautiful child of Scottish missionaries. I admired her silky blond hair, fair skin, pink cheeks and blue eyes, and it hurt my very soul when she cried.

Math--what awful memories that word conjures! The students were far ahead of me in that area, and it seemed I couldn't grasp any but the simplest principles. Most of the morning lessons were devoted to math, so after lunch I could more or less relax.

Reading time

At this time I could sit in my class and listen to Miss Gardiner read. She was constantly reading aloud to us, and it was the only part of her teaching that I enjoyed.

She read to us of the history of Britain, and I was fascinated by the kings and queens--a fascination that continues to this day. She read Greek mythology and classic literature.
So I profited from Miss Gardiner's teaching after all. She helped instill and nurture in me a love of literature that grew steadily.

Manor House seemed like an odd school to me, but I know that much of what I am today was influenced by my time there. I've no doubt that my Anglophilia--love of all things British--took root at that time, and has never left me.

My fifth grade was spent at American Community School, almost an exact replica of a Hometown USA school. It was fun and interesting, but not nearly as much of a really different experience as was Manor House School.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Really interesting story! I like your blog, and will be following it!


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