The first school that I went to was split into two schools – Priestmead First School and Priestmead Middle School. Both of these schools occupied the same building, with the First School on the ground floor, and the Middle School on the first floor. The First School covered what is now called the Reception Year, and Years 1-3 (ages 5-8), and (at the time I was there) the Middle School covered Years 4-7 (ages 8-12).
However, when I was in the First School, we called the Reception Year the “first year”, Year 1 the “second year”, and so on, until we were in the “fourth year”, now known as Year 3. When my year group transitioned into the Middle School (back in 1989) the Head Teacher told us, “You’ve been fourth years once, and now you’re going to be fourth years again.” Me, with my little 8-year-old head, thought that this meant that we were going to skip three years, and just do one year in the Middle School’s “fourth year”. Alas, I was wrong, and we were just going into the renamed Year 4.
I was assigned to Mr Godfrey’s class. Prior to moving to the Middle School I had only seen him once before. It would have been at some point when I was in the First School, and my brother was in the Middle School. My brother was running down the path that went between the playgrounds of the two schools – I saw him from the First School playground. I then saw a smartly dressed teacher walk down the path and call out my brother’s name. (I don’t know what my brother was running for – he’d probably misbehaved – and I can’t remember what happened next.) That teacher was Mr Godfrey.
We weren’t in proper classrooms in the main building for Year 4, we were in separate buildings to the side of the school. It wasn’t really a problem, these buildings weren’t too bad.
I remember Mr Godfrey as being a good teacher, who worked well with the class. He wouldn’t just tell the class to get on with their work – he would talk to us, which helped to aid our learning. He cared for the pupils in his class, and didn’t tolerate bullies.
One memory I have of him was when I was reading one of my “Knightmare” books in class (at a time when we could read books – I wasn’t reading a book instead of doing my work). He told me that he didn’t want me reading it. I disregarded this, and was reading it again at a later date. He told me again that he didn’t want me reading it. When I asked him why he wouldn’t give me a reason...
Classes would often put on assemblies at our school, and our class was no exception. There was only one which I’m fairly sure was from Year 4 that I can remember – not that I can remember too much about it. What I can remember was that we had different children playing the same parts in each scene, so that as many people as possible could take part – this would have been Mr Godfrey’s idea. I think I was playing a homeless child, who had got into a man’s house and was eating his cornflakes. I remember having to coax the kid who was playing the man in my scene to come out on to the stage.
Mr Godfrey would also make time to talk to pupils in his class one-on-one. I remember one time when he was speaking to me he told me about an imagined conversation between us in the future that he’d like us to have. In the future he pictured for me he had me in charge of a number of important scientific labs. Maybe he had noticed that I was good at science. Although, that said, my future didn’t go down the path that he imagined for me, as I’m now a Civil Servant. My higher education has mainly focussed on the arts, but I have recently done some science modules with the Open University, and got Distinctions for them, so maybe he was on to something...
There’s another conversation with him that I clearly remember. One day I hadn’t done my homework, but I still handed in my book along with all of the other children who had done their homework. After he had gone through the books to mark them, he called me over to him (I think this was at a time when the rest of the class had gone out, perhaps at break time). He told me he was having trouble finding my homework. I just stood there in silence. He opened my book in front of me, on the page where my homework should have been. But there was no homework there. He said that he would try looking on another page. He turned the page, but, no, there was still no homework. He then suggested that I might have done it in the back of my book, but, no, it wasn’t there either. He tried a few other pages, but then eventually I admitted that I hadn’t done it. Of course, he knew I hadn’t done it, he was just giving me the opportunity to admit that was the case...
In one lesson our Head Teacher, Mr Robertson (not the same Head Teacher who had told us about being fourth years) came into our classroom and gave Mr Godfrey a letter. Mr Godfrey opened the letter, and with a smile, he thanked Mr Robertson. It turned out that this was to be Mr Godfrey’s last year teaching before he retired, and I think (but can’t be certain) that this letter was confirmation of his retirement.
I remember on Mr Godfrey’s last day the whole class were out on the school field and we were taking pictures of the whole class with Mr Godfrey in the centre, and he was even signing autographs!
The last memory I have of Mr Godfrey would have been in that summer, in 1990. We had a load of flying ants in the neighbourhood and I was outside my house attacking them. Mr Godfrey was walking down my road, saw me, and stopped to talk briefly. He gave some advice on dealing with the flying ants, saying that we had to be careful about these ants getting underneath the house.
Mr Godfrey was a great teacher, who I believe was fondly remembered by all that he taught (although, perhaps, not by my brother!). Mr Godfrey, if by some chance you happen to be reading this, then I’d just like to say thank you for being my teacher!
Next Week: God’s Existence – The Time Argument