Sometimes I wish to be an ice queen

When I was a teenage student, we had this teacher. Most of us hated her because we were scared as hell in her lessons. The girls would never dare to wear bold makeup because if they had, she would have sent them to the sink immediately. Even the worst rascals were relatively well-prepared for her lessons since being examined by this teacher and not knowing the answers was deeply humiliating. The best strategy for us students was to have our hands up all the time; otherwise, it was best to shut up and make ourselves invisible.

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I remember the very first grade I got from her – it was an F. I cried like a child for almost an hour. She had no mercy. Needless to say, from then on, I never got an F from her again. I would easily get up at 4 in the morning to revise when I knew I might be examined on that day.

When I look back, when the picture is already blurred, I see things slightly differently. Although she was a complete ice queen, she wasn’t a bad teacher. What I admire now is that she knew exactly what she wanted and that she clearly had no doubts about her methods and approaches. Anyway, I can’t blame her for wanting us to pay attention and learn the facts. I can’t look down on her just because she didn’t seem to want to be friends with us students, nor did she wish to be our facilitator – a fancy term used a lot these days. One thing is certain, she knew what to do to stay sane.

During the school year, we rarely wrote written test; it was always oral examination – usually just twice per term . What did that mean? Well, it meant no extra work for her, i.e. grading papers till late at night (there were more than 30 students in our class back then). Anyway, she still managed to kill two birds with one stone. For one, she had free evenings to read her favorite books. For two, as you couldn’t hear a pin drop in her lesson and everybody was scared as hell all the time, we really paid attention during the examination. Thus, we were all involved and learned a lot from our peers.

Another thing that I appreciate now is that she made us use the textbook. Although she explained the basic facts in the lesson, we always had to read the corresponding chapters at home – we even had to study all the captions below the pictures. This is a skill many students lack these days, I’m afraid. They like to get everything on a silver plate; on the spot, preferably wrapped in a fun package. They are not used to making the extra effort.

To be honest, I sometimes wish to be like her. She was an ‘authority figure’ with real authority and this made her life much easier, I think. Mind you, it’s not about me wanting power or something; it’s about the peace and quiet every teacher secretly longs for.

But I’ll never be like her, I guess. I’m a different person. Moreover, times have changed and sands have shifted since I was a student. These days, you can’t possibly make a 16-year-old girl remove her makeup in front of the whole class and you definitely shouldn’t laugh at a student maliciously when he or she makes a mistake or doesn’t know the answer. Nevertheless, I believe that we can still get inspired by the things such teachers did well.

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About Hana Tichá

I'm an EFL teacher based in the Czech Republic. I've been teaching English to learners of all ages for more than 20 years. I love metaphors and inspiring discussions concerning teaching, learning and linguistics.
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3 Responses to Sometimes I wish to be an ice queen

  1. ven_vve says:

    Interesting… I wonder if this is geographically dependent in any way. In Croatia we also had (have? you know I don’t teach in the state sector so don’t know if this is still the case) these in-class examinations. I’m not sure I’m entirely comfortable with the term because I understand they’re usually not terribly long and detailed – which to me is a sort of prerequisite for an exam. I mean, they can last just a couple of minutes, can’t they? I remember my mom telling me about a teacher (can’t remember which subject he taught) who would examine the class thus: the first student would start reciting verbatim the textbook they were using, then when they’d said a couple of sentences, the teacher would ask another student to continue where the first one had left off, often mid-sentence! Then the third, and so on. Obviously, you had to be prepared and definitely could not drift off in class. Now I think about this method of testing (and grading), I guess it’s pretty convenient if the teacher is using the same textbook for decades and knows it by heart. Very low-prep. 🙂 Anyway, this teacher clearly left a mark on his students – well, on my mom anyway.
    So, I guess my question is, do other parts of the world besides ours employ this method of giving marks, and is this still practiced in schools? Definitely more convenient for the teacher than written tests and/or individual oral exams, but possibly traumatic for the students.
    Thanks for the post!

    Liked by 3 people

    • Hana Tichá says:

      Hi, Vedrana. Sorry for the late reply. I was busy doing some real teaching and high-stakes testing over the past few days so I’ve been neglecting my blog. 🙂

      Thanks for your interesting comment. I’d say that in-class examinations are still quite common over here. However, I don’t do them very often; I find them too time-consuming, and I’ve never come to like the fact that only one student is in the centre of attention while the others do ‘nothing’ (seemingly?). I admit, though, that it might be different in other subjects, like biology, chemistry, history, etc. The examination I talk about in my post was usually pretty thorough – about 10 minutes long, as far as I remember. This, I belive, is long enough time to find out what the student knows/doesn’t know. If the student knows all the answers, this type of examination can obviously become a nice way of revision for the rest of the class. Otherewise, it’s just a traumatic experience, I guess.

      Your mom’s teacher was tough (and the way he taught was very convenient indeed!). Thanks for sharing the story.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Something I can relate to with you, Hana! Had teachers like her. Oh, how I wish for the peace and quiet! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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