The brilliant physicist Stephen Hawking has just told the story of how a teacher opened his eyes to mathematics.
The Cambridge professor described how Dirkran Tahta helped him build his first computer when he was a pupil at St Albans School in Hertfordshire.
Prof Hawking said that prior to that he had been a lazy student, but the teacher had inspired him to discover the “blueprint of the universe itself – mathematics”.
“Many teachers were boring. Not Mr Tahta. His classes were lively and exciting,” said the author of A Brief History Of Time.
Prof Hawking was speaking in a video for the Varkey Foundation Global Teacher Prize.
There is a tedious and insulting phrase ‘Those who can, can, those who can’t, teach’. In truth, as almost everyone will remember from their school days, there are countless inspirational and talented teachers.
Most people reading Prof Hawking’s recollection of Mr Tahta will be astonished to hear that one of the most outstanding scientists in modern history was once a lazy boy. It is a reminder of the fact that many children who are thought to be lazy have not in fact found their inspiration or their path. A great teacher might well help them to find it.
Teaching is one of the most important roles in any society. Anyone who can educate young people but make it enjoyable too has a talent that should be nurtured and rewarded.
Teachers do enjoy perks such as long holidays although they point out that they often endure tough term times.
It is right that bonuses are paid in some subjects where it is hard to recruit teachers. There also needs to be extra pay for the most inspirational teachers and pressure applied to the under performing ones.
But most teachers, even if they are not exceptional, nonetheless have the esteem of those that they teach – which is priceless recognition.