Influential Teachers

Today’s task for Learn Something New Every Day was to consider the people who have taught us something that still influences our lives today. As suggested, I picked three and thought about what they taught me and what their lasting influences have been.

Miss Anderson was my Standard 3 (Year 5) teacher. At the time I thought she was about 100 but now I think she was probably in her early thirties when she taught me. She may not have been as old as I thought she was, but she was certainly very wise. I hold onto these three things she taught me:

  • read, read, read (she ‘fed’ me book after book, introducing me to Hugh Lofting, CS Lewis and Astrid Lindgren, among many others). I still love books and reading, and they are of course a key part of my job at the library.
  • the importance of content over presentation (I still remember her ‘B’ grade of my project, and the comment that the time I’d spent colouring the front page would have been better spent on the pages behind the cover). What a great lesson to learn so early in life.
  • when you have something hard to do, don’t put it off (naughtiness in our class was met with swift consequences – I don’t imagine it was easy to ‘strap’ children or withdraw privileges, but she didn’t falter – as a result, we all knew exactly where we stood).

Jim Thompson was my boss at the NZ Liquor Industry Council, where I worked as his PA for two and a half years from 1986 to 1988. From Jim I learned:

  • just about everything I know about the political process (this knowledge expanded and refined from ‘the other side’ when I worked for a government department and a CRI);
  • the importance of maintaining good networks – and that the work required pays dividends even when you least look for it
  • never to hesitate to pick up the phone and say hello, no matter how much time has passed since you last got together with the person you’re phoning; they’ll love to hear from you (Jim is the best at keeping in touch).

I was lucky enough to be present at Jim’s 80th birthday on Saturday – here’s a photo of Jim and his younger daughter Ann (Karl du Fresne in the background).

My Mum, who of course taught me lots of things, but the three I picked out especially are:

  • if you don’t know what to cook for dinner, cut up and fry an onion and the family will at least know you have started something. Mum was an excellent cook, especially for dinner parties, but day-to-day cooking didn’t thrill her so much – there’s so much else to do, after all. Her maxim is still at the heart of my cooking – just about everything begins with sauteed onions (or shallots, or leek)!
  • everyone is creative – and making things is enjoyable. Mum made many of the clothes she wore, and dresses and other garments for my sister and me. She was very clever in the way she altered patterns and added embellishments to make each item unique. I am sure I quilt and scrapbook because of her example.
  • it’s never too late to fulfil an ambition. After retiring Mum wrote short stories and was published in The People’s Friend as well as having a story read on the BBC. We were all so proud of her!