Previous Challenge Entry (Level 1 – Beginner)
Topic: Teacher (10/26/06)
TITLE: THE LITTLE FRED SCHOOLBOOK
By Ruth Renwick
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Although I was only in grade 5, I recognised him as a gentleman. He always wore a jacket. Brushstrokes of grey hair swept back from his face and highlighted his moustache. I knew he must be someone of importance because he carried a large leather briefcase with his name embossed on it with gold letters – “F. J. I. Lowrie”. Three initials to his name. He had to be someone special.
Indeed he was. As my teacher for two years he made more impact on me than any other teacher. I have no doubt that many hundreds of his students would say the same.
It was Mr Lowrie, more affectionately known as Sir, who gave me a love for learning. He introduced us to Shakespeare where we memorised famous excerpts and later performed them in front of the whole school. We also memorised classic English poetry, learning how to appreciate the imagery and use of language.
He always sought to bring out the best in his students. He encouraged some of us to embark on writing novels. The girl who had a gift in music was inspired to write a piece for a number of instruments. Our class performed this at a school concert with great gusto. I played in the recorder section, while others played flutes, violins or drums and the composer conducted the orchestra.
Sir instilled discipline into us. This was well tempered with fairness and encouragement. We wanted to live up to his expectations. He insisted that work was neat and of high quality. To earn Sir’s praise was always a delight.
Every morning we recited the Lord’s Prayer and sang Psalm 23. Some of the girls would sing harmony to make it sound angelic. It set the foundation for our day.
Although I was too young to appreciate it then, Sir must have known what it was to rely on his shepherd. We had heard he had lost his wife and young child in an accident and never remarried. However, the heritage he has left is immeasurable. Now my own son has an interest in literature and writing and I find myself telling him about the Latin and Greek roots of words – just as Sir told us.
In our second year with Sir he encouraged us to produce a class magazine. It was full of items we contributed – short stories, poems, puzzles, riddles and cartoons. I enjoyed the success of my first published works – one poem about a beetle and another about a bug!
By now we had become more familiar with Sir. Behind his back some students called him Fred. I’m sure he knew, but he was good-humoured and understood that it was used more as a term of endearment.
Around that time a controversial sex education book was released into the community. It was aimed at school students but not all parents agreed it was suitable. Much to our surprise, Sir agreed that we could adapt the title of that book for our magazine. Instead of “The Little Red Schoolbook” our magazine was called “The Little Fred Schoolbook”! He even allowed us to include a limerick about him:
There once was a fellow named Fred
Had a passion for sesame bread.
They gave him a slice
All loaded with lice
And now that poor fellow is dead.
Many teachers have come and gone since then but I can say that none were as special, nor as significant in my life as Fred . . .er, Sir. It was not because of the gold-embossed letters on his briefcase or his distinguished manner. It was because he saw the gold in each student and helped us to see it for ourselves. He taught us the character, manners and discipline of a true gentleman – more by example than lessons. He prepared us for life.
Some years ago I tried to find out whether he was still living. I wanted to give him long overdue thanks for what he had imparted into my life. Perhaps the greatest thing to thank him for is the prayers I feel sure he must have made for his students. Now I will have to wait until I join him and our shepherd. I think he will be the one surrounded by many others saying thank you – and with the wife and daughter by his side.
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