Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Fabulous past pupils

This week's INM Irish regional newspapers' column

Michael Commane
Greek philosopher Plato said young people were rude, they had little respect for authority and they showed disrespect for their elders.
Plato was approximately 80 when he died in 347 BC/BCE.

So when older people give out about the generation coming up behind them they are simply repeating an age-old sentiment.

There are those who will always look on the glass half empty but there are those who see it as half full.

On some occasions it can be full to the brim.

I can't really say what sort of a teacher I was or am. There were the good days and the not-so-good days but looking back on it now, I can honestly hold my hands up and say I really enjoyed teaching. My main subjects were German and English. I also taught religion, a subject that could be difficult to teach because it was not an exam subject.

In recent weeks I have met up with two past pupils I taught in a Kerry school.

They were in the first class I taught in that school. It was a German Junior Cert class. And then in Leaving Cert I was back teaching them German again. I had gone back teaching, having worked at The Kerryman newspaper for a number of years. I was substituting for a woman, who was out on maternity leave, and then stayed on for some years afterwards.

They were good years. It was a small school in a West Kerry village with a dedicated staff. There was a lovely and easy relationship between teachers and pupils.

The two young women I met are now in their mid-20s. One is a nurse and the other woman works for a food company. The nurse started out doing science but changed disciplines after her first year at college and now thoroughly enjoys the nursing job that she has just begun. The other young woman had been teaching but she also has changed her career and is now working in the food industry. She too loves her job.

It was Ryan Tubridy who introduced me to the word 'millennials'. A millennial is someone who reached young adulthood in the early years of this century. So,  I suppose you could say these young women are millennials. But it's a funny one. Because when we attempt to class or codify people in groupings we can so easily get it all so wrong. Labels are always dangerous things. Name calling is never a good idea. Prejudice is deadly.

I met both women at different times and different venues. But they both had one thing in common. I was profoundly taken by their genuine goodness and attitude. They both could not be more content in their jobs. 

In all my years teaching I could count on one hand the number of young people who might have been nasty. Or maybe it was that we simply did not get on; they did not like me and/or I did not like them. That happens.

I am well aware there are other stories out there, people do get into trouble, not everyone is happy at work, indeed, there are many who have no job at all. There are those for whom school doesn't work. But all I am saying here is that I was impressed to meet two young people I taught, who are now so happy in the early years of their working lives.
Great to meet former pupils who are now thriving. And good people too.

I wonder what Plato might say to me? What would he think of the two young women?

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