The Maltonian Web

Maltonians' Memories

Michael Hickes

March 2005 Michael Hickes sent some memories of MAlton School staff, and Mrs Williams in particular, following an article in the February 2005 newsletter about Mrs Williams' funeral.

I was a pupil at Malton Grammar School, 1947-1953, and during this time I was taught French by Mrs Williams - Ma Bill or Ma TAW, as we called her, but NEVER in her hearing, of course. Or rather, it might be more truthful to say that I was frightened into learning French! At the time, however, though aware of the situation, I gave little serious thought to the matter of teaching method.

In 1958, newly qualified, I began my teaching career at a secondary modern school in Hampshire; a term or two later, at the end of a General Inspection, one of the HMIs - Mr Priestley was his name, I think - told me that from my records he had noticed that I had been educated at MGS where, about ten years earlier, he had come across a wonderful lady teacher at that small grammar school, one of the best teachers he'd ever come across as an inspector, he said.

He could not remember the lady's name: well, not Mrs W, was my first thought, as it seemed to me that she had absolutely nothing in common with what I'd been told at College that good teachers should be and do - gently encouraging, always prepared to listen, a friend to the pupils, always prepared to give the benefit of the doubt - ... she was the wife of the headmaster, and she taught French" he added.

When I'd taken this in - second thought: perhaps my college training, so clearly at odds with this particular HMI's views, wasn't necessarily the only method of approach. And from then on, I felt some confidence in taking what might be called a more authoritative stance in the classroom. I like to think that I found the happy medium as I became more experienced; it seems to have stood me in good stead in thirty-eight years of full-time teaching, so thank you for your input, Mrs Williams and Mr Priestley.

I have to add, however, in case anyone should think French lessons were unmitigated terror, that there were many occasions and situations which were quite different - getting your homework in on time, and done properly, for example, and at the end of term, as an organized and subtly educative relaxation, the gramophone and records having been produced, the mellow tones of Jean Sablan (Le Fiacre is the only title I can recall with certainty) would bring a dreamy smile to Ma Bill's face - was she, I wonder now, recalling student days in a romantic Paris of the 1920s?

Well, that's as may be; she was a memorable teacher of the 'old school' style, and part of making MGS_what it was, along with TAW, Soss, Miss Platts; -Aggit, Frazz, Brutus - what a list of characters, along with others, of course, who, perhaps despite themselves, and almost certainly despite ourselves (the pupils), really did make a good job of depriving us of our ignorance - we became educated - and speaking for myself - my thanks to them all!

Michael Hickes
Sleights, Whitby