Ah, school. I have to admit I hated most of my time in school. I was a spotty, geeky, bespectacled youth, not given to sport and mortally afraid of girls, mainly because I liked them so much.
Over the years I attended a number of diffrerent schools, and was subjected to a variety of teaching methods by teachers of varying degreees of quality and - well, not to put too fine a point on it - likeability. And it seems to me, looking back, that the subjects I did the best in were the subjects where I liked the teacher. The teaching methods didn’t seem to matter; as long as the teacher was someone you liked and you wanted to please, you worked, and by working, you learned.
The best example of this, and for me the best teacher I had, was my grammar school Biology teacher, Mr Davidson. His declared approach to teaching was this: that he could only actually help some of the students in his class, and they were the in-betweeners.
Some kids were not academically inclined, and they were unlikely to do very well. Some were stupendously clever and would learn whatever he did. But the ones in the middle would usually do ok, but would do better if he got his job right. I don’t know whether he was right, but it made sense to me at the time and it still does.
Mr Davidson had a teaching method which was unique in my experience. In a one-hour Biology lesson, he would spend less than five minutes on the topic being taught; the rest of the lesson would be about completely unrelated things. In one lesson about bird nesting habits, for example, he drifted off into a discussion about how soldiers react when enemy soldiers surrender.
On one occasion we found the biology lab unlocked. This was highly unusual. Normally the lab would be locked, and we’d be expected to wait in the corridor outside until he arrived and let us in. Unsure what to do, we filed in anyway and took our seats at the benches. Suddenly Mr Davidson popped up from behind the bench at the front of the class, holding some kind of handgun, and pointed it at the class. Nobody dared move. He remained there for about half a minute before dropping back down behind the desk, to reappear seconds later with his jacket held up to his neck, and said “What colour tie am I wearing?” I don’t actually remember what the lesson was that day, so I think he probably got that one slightly wrong - although I recall that the discussion immediately following this was to do with selective attention.
The only bad thing about Mr Davidson, by today’s standards at least, was that he was a denier. He denied the classical paleontological ideas of the day about dinosaurs, and particularly that they were cold blooded. Despite thousands of scientific papers proving that dinosaurs were cold blooded, he went against the consensus. He believed in the theories proposed by a minority of scientists such as Bob Bakker (whose personal grooming he appeared to dislike) and Adrian Desmond who were saying that dinosaurs - at least some of them, the very big ones, were actually warm-blooded. Endothermic, just like you and me.
As we know today, Desmond and Bakker were right, and the consensus were wrong. I’m quite pleased about that. I liked Mr Davidson a lot, and I’d have hated to think he was both a denier AND wrong. And I guess being right means he wasn’t really a denier after all - just either very astute, or very lucky to have backed the right choice.