• Victoria Gallagher

What Makes A Good Teacher

I was lucky enough to have more than one really great teacher - in fact, I’d go so far as to say that there were a dozen in that category over my years at school.

Inevitably, a large part of what made me like them was that they were, well, likable. Interesting, fun, kind. People who, if I met for the first time now in my late 20s (rather than the speccy teenager I was), I’d be pleased to call friends or colleagues.

But of course, it’s not just about being friendly - the very best teachers I had were the ones who gave me skills that I could use outside their classrooms.

I think the earliest example of this was my Year 9 history teacher (who runs this very site!), who taught me how to critically examine historical sources. She was the first teacher to get me thinking laterally about what documents and evidence really show us about the past - and how history is not always about certainty, but also about working out what we don’t know.

I hadn’t realised it at the time, but she was cultivating skills in me that I would then go on to use in my career as a journalist. My job today depends on interrogating evidence, statistics and sources to find out what we know, and what gaps and biases could cloud our view of the truth. A healthy scepticism about what we’re told and who is telling us is pretty much the basis of good journalism. Where better to start the journey to that career than first thing on a Tuesday morning with Mrs Gallagher?

And when it comes to setting me up with skills that I could put to use elsewhere, my Year 11 maths teacher has to get a mention. After our exams (which he had steered us through with a kind of calm steadiness which made even that stressful task seem do-able), he gave the class a half-hour introduction to economics.

What was a sideshow for him - something to take our minds off the agonising wait for GCSE results - opened up an entire part of my mind that I’d never used before. It was a revelation: there was a whole world of logical thinking that I hadn’t come across before, and I was getting a crash course in how to navigate it.

I had, until then, been set on the idea of doing maths at A-level, but ironically, my maths teacher was a victim of his own success. He switched me on to economics, which I then took instead. And it was that decision that ultimately led me to my first job out of university as a civil servant at the Treasury.

These are two examples that spring most readily to mind, though there were many other teachers who did the same: they not only got me into their subjects, but developed in me skills that have carried me through into the working world. I am grateful to have gone to a school that, though it looked like an ordinary south London comprehensive from the outside, contained such a wealth of excellent teachers whom I remember very fondly today.

Georgina Lee, Channel 4 News Journalist

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