Wednesday, 6 July 2016

Miss Betts

Never underestimate the power of praise..

I was perhaps fourteen or fifteen and was sat at my desk in an English lesson reading a chapter of The Catcher In The Rye" 
The teacher, Miss Betts,  was marking essays at her own desk in the corner by the window. She was a kind of a hippy-type character. long hair, long floaty skirts. Flat Chest, ethnic jewelry.
She was a serious teacher. Earnest and never, as I recall, happy looking.

Anyhow, after a long period of silence , she sighed and spoke out to the class
"John Gray, I am impressed with a simile you have just used in your essay!

" The summer sun flowed through the dining room windows and warmed the house like a hand shake on a cold day"
She didn't look up from her marking and the rest of the class didn't react that much to her comment, but for me, that snippet of public praise made me feel ten foot tall!

That was 40 years ago. And I still remember it as if it was yesterday.

58 comments:

  1. It was a good simile and you continue to use such colour in your blog, which I guess is partly why you have a huge readership. You have talent for writing, but do you have talent for publishable writing in the old form?

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  2. I am just as impressed as Miss Betts - an excellent simile which describes that scene so evocatively.
    MY English teacher (Mrs Lloyd) was also very supportive and encouraging and I always remember her fondly.

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  3. It doesn't take much for a teacher to make an impression, does it? I always try to remember that when I'm talking to students. My words will be magnified in their memories. (I should be so lucky to be as remembered as Miss Betts.)

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  4. It's a great simile!

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  5. An honest complement can make such a huge impression, and you still write so wonderfully.

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  6. I still remember the short paragraph for an essay that I wrote for the entrance to the senior part of the convent. On attending later the compulsory interview with the Mother Superior with my mother she casually remarked that my 'essay' had come top and I had said more in one paragraph than most had managed over two pages. I can still remember the actual words of the first sentence of that essay.

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  7. you still have a talent for simile

    nearly everyone seems to have a teacher who made some kind of difference for them but I can't remember anything significant. I suspect that says more about me than my teachers

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  8. A sign of things to come .. it was a lovely simile.
    Funny, the small unexpected kind words that nestle into your heart and stay ..

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  9. Bless her. For noticing and for telling you.

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  10. Praise works wonders, but should be used a little sparingly. My grandsons are always receiving AMAZING ACHIEVEMENT certificates, which are pointless. They boys know it too!

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    1. I agree - too much praise is given out freely at junior school nowadays and it subsequently loses its value.

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  11. What a beautiful simile. Good on Miss Betts for giving praise where it was due. Most girls in the sixties had flat chests; I was a little more buxom (by those standards) and I think because I had a teeny waist. I was ridiculed and mocked by the "raisins on breadboard girls" because of my boobs! xxx

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  12. When I was head of a large unit in a Comprehensive I always used to stress that one word of praise did more good than a hundred complaints. I still hold that to be true to every aspect of life.

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  13. Great simile. Impressive at any age, nevertheless coming from a teenager.

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  14. I had one of those moments at school too....a teacher praised the way I read aloud from The Family from One End Street and I felt ten feet tall....silly really but I remember where I was sat and how good that little compliment made me feel.

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    1. I was brought up in a critical household, positives seldom were given

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  15. Wonderful simile. John Gray has a heart as big as a bucket - (metaphorically speaking) x

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  16. It was my English teacher that inspired my love of the written word too ... Mrs Simpson if you are still alive I thank you :-)

    (But I also blame you entirely for my house being filled to the rafters with books waiting to be read!!)

    You do write exceptionally well John, if ever there was a book that deserved to be written it would be one by you about your life in the village with all your neighbours, assorted animals and birds .. oh and you could mention The Prof in passing.

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    1. I 2nd and 3rd that about a book by Mr Gray.

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    2. 50 Shades of Gray perhaps?

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    3. A perfect title :-)

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  17. Her praise has let her live on. Teachers have the opportunity to make or break a student, it would be nice if, now, they only gave it when deserved. Very nice simile, John!

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  18. " She was a kind of a hippy-type character. long hair, long floaty skirts. Flat Chest, ethnic jewellery" No nothing like me especially the flat chest.

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  19. Lovely simile and lovely of her to praise you for it! It's funny how things like that can stay with us for years. A sewing teacher of mine told me I had an "oddball shape" when I was thirteen. (She was as wide as she was tall.) That offhand comment has followed me into every clothing store dressing room for 56 years.

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  20. Good teacher! Good memory!

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    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  22. Blimey, I wish Iwould spell check before posting. What I intended to write was funny how a remark can stay with you forever. I remember being about 7 or eight. It was 'school trip day' and we were all waiting to get on the bus. I turned to 'Mrs Lee' and said.. You look nice miss........her reply.... Don't I always look nice..... I was crushed. Daft I know but it has stuck with me for nearly fifty years

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    1. The power of a single phrase to a child...we all need to think a bit more in child conversations me thinks

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  23. In high school, I used to earn pocket money grading essays for an English teacher. Her rule was that every essay had to have a positive comment. No matter how poorly thought out, abysmally spelled, horrifically grammared (I know--nonexistent)I was tasked with finding something to praise. I'm not sure what my comments ("You have such legible handwriting.") meant to the students, but the experience of making them caused me, in time, to be a better teacher.

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  24. I taught for 41 years. ( I started teaching when I was 10). A positive comment or a hug (spare us, you can't do that today) went further than 100% on any test.

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  25. I don't remember any positive comments from the teachers of Consett Grammar School but I do remember a blackboard eraser whizzing by my ear because I dared to glance out of the window during French. A lesson in consequences.

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    1. Arhhh the casual violence of a frustrated teacher...generally a thing of the past

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  26. Love "The Catcher in the rye". I've read it many times and still keep going back to it. My youngest daughter, who is an English teacher, can't stand it!
    I love praising people but am rubbish at accepting it. I was sent to the headmaster when I was about 9 (Mr Jackman, frightening severe christian, who loved beating children!), I thought I was in for a serious telling off, but I was praised for my geography topic and given a blackcurrant and liquorice sweet. Still remember it as clear as day.

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    1. I hated catcher in the Rye.it depressed me

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    2. That is what's so good about it! I longed to be him and have his life. To a state school kid from a sink estate it was exotic beyond belief.

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  27. That is wonderful! Some people don't realize (Or do they?) what a 'moment' they have given us.

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  28. Excellent simile. Teachers can make or break. My English teacher inspired me and made Shakespeare interesting. Our biology teacher must've been the sister of your teacher she had tights of every colour. Our maths teacher we called "Groper" wouldn't be allowed now. Oh schooldays.
    Me

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  29. Impressive writing, well done John Grey ! X

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  30. That's a great simile and I'm not surprised she was impressed by it. I'm not surprised either that her praise made such an impression on you. I think all pupils are dying for praise from their teachers.

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    1. In the 1970s praise wasnt too common

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  31. Its a good reminder .If you are thinking it then sometimes you should say so.Sometimes even a casual remark can change someone's life for the good.

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    1. Professionally , i have always looked for genuine areas i could praise a colleague on

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  32. Yep, giving people confidence is a great enabler.

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  33. Your tribute to Miss Betts has allowed the rest of us to reflect on some school memories that have also weathered the passing years with warmth.

    Thank you Miss Betts, and thank you, John Gray, for opening up those doors.

    Best wishes.

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  34. I'm glad you have a pleasant memory from school. I think I was pretty liberal with my praise while I taught school. Just the kind word has such a positive effect while a negative word can cripple.

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  35. So it started at a young age! You are indeed talented! Your words do warm us all like that handshake on a cold day....

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  36. Excellent simile John though I first read the word as smile !
    An English teacher at secondary school read out the first line of my essay commenting, " That is how an opening line makes you want to read on "
    It was something like ... The snow cracked underfoot as I stepped onto the cable car and I knew there was no going back...
    Teachers can make or break us xx

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  37. My 12 year old niece has just discovered similes and I recently had so much delight reading her efforts in a detective story. I think this one is nice: "as dust danced like ballerinas in the sunlight." Young writers! Such fun!

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  38. Just goes to show doesn't it, that a simple remark of praise from a teacher can make all the difference.

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  39. You remember Miss Betts's comment like a seaside souvenir from a long ago holiday or like the butterfly that comes each summer to dance along your lane.

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  40. An early indication of your gift with words. What a sweet memory.

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  41. That is a terrific simile. :)

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  42. And that is why teachers matter in our lives. After more than forty years in the profession, I am so grateful when former students relate moments that matter to me. I am grateful to my seventh grade teacher who introduced me to Jane Austen - the seed that he planted still resonates.

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  43. I loved my English teacher. She was my "Jean Brodie". As a single woman she would tell us about her travels abroad. We were very impressed. Then a couple of years later I was working in the jewellery department at Debenhams and she came to my counter, recognised me and spoke . Then asked me to show her some necklaces as she wanted to buy one for a Christmas present for her niece. After looking at a few she said , "Well I know which she would like...but I know what she is getting !" They were all a similar price. I was totally deflated . The wonderful woman that I knew just disappeared in front of my eyes.

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  44. I loved my English teacher. She was my "Jean Brodie". As a single woman she would tell us about her travels abroad. We were very impressed. Then a couple of years later I was working in the jewellery department at Debenhams and she came to my counter, recognised me and spoke . Then asked me to show her some necklaces as she wanted to buy one for a Christmas present for her niece. After looking at a few she said , "Well I know which she would like...but I know what she is getting !" They were all a similar price. I was totally deflated . The wonderful woman that I knew just disappeared in front of my eyes.

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  45. Smooth . . . that Miss Betts . . . I would remember that "gift" too.
    Great simile . . .

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