Boring classics teachers


All hail, seven pupils of Aristides the rhetorician, four walls and three benches.

Select Epigrams from the Greek Anthology 10 XXX111 J.W.MACKAIL

Nowadays the accolade for the most boring teachers seems to go to geography teachers. I am sure that this reputation is undeserved and their lessons are stimulating and those who know them well find them very entertaining company. In my day it was Classics masters who were known to have sleep inducing lessons. There was one master in particular who surpassed the others in this regard. He had the nickname Tick because he was as interesting as a clock ticking. I hope if he reads this and recognises himself he will read on because I hope that I will have nice things to say about him but I am afraid he may have passed on by now. “Tick” was a middle aged man who was unmarried and lived with his mother. He taught me Greek and Ancient History. The first indication that he had a deeper inner life than appeared on the surface was when we began reading Homer. The set text that year if I remember rightly was book 24 of the Iliad where Priam ransoms Hector from Achilles. His enthusiasm mounted as he started to introduce his small class – to be honest not much larger than Aristides’ above – to Homer. He obviously believed and probably rightly that once you start reading Homer you cannot fail to be enthused. His enthusiasm although quiet definitely communicated itself to me.

This lead me to ponder that many works of classical literature so deeply affect the emotions that if you are immersed in classical literature like “Tick” (but not like me), you could lead a full life entirely in your head and appear to be boring on the outside but inside travelling the seas with Odysseus or dragging Hector’s body round Troy. Or caught up in one of the dramas, and while not exactly raging over the mountains with the Bacchantes at least caught up with their enthusiasm. Perhaps for “Tick” this inner life more than compensated for his outer life.

After I left the school I heard that Tick’s mother had died and that he had resigned from teaching and taken holy orders and eventually was given a rural parish in Dorset. I had visions of him droning on and sending his small congregation to sleep while internally his heart was in heaven dancing with the angels and archangels.

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