in loco parentis…

in loco parentis…

…is what teachers are, so I am led to believe. But nowadays the phrase is hardly heard. Having recently seen a gift – aimed at pupils who will be moving on – to give to teachers, I found the following motto on it a little peculiar. It ran: “Your students will not remember anything that you taught them but they will remember how you made them feel”.

Well, I suppose that this might be a moot (or “Moo” as quoth Joey in “Friends”) point. Remembering all one’s teachers and their lessons is probably an effort.

Time marches on though and in trying to think of mine – and what they imparted to me – something occurs to me that really is mostly forgotten about school. Dinnerladies. Mostly retired from one place of work and eking out a pension with a little part-time job.

During lunchtimes nearly 60 years ago, Dinnerladies supervised the meals in the school and then oversaw the playground. At my school, they befriended children and helped them to play safely and kindly with one another. They talked to us and knew us all by name. They took the trouble to smile at us and we knew all their names too. We called them “Miss”. Just that; no more.

They had a whistle too so that attention might be called to this or that. One of them (Mrs Riley) had a Police whistle. That was something else.

Age 11 and we move on to the big school. Dinnerladies there were only found in the kitchens. True, they made very good food, they were very helpful but they stayed put. We never learned their names and they never really communicated with us, although they did smile. And that was something to cherish. There was little else to cherish about the rest of the place. The yard was rough and ready and the behaviour unkind, belligerent and boorish.

Sometime later and the school choir sang carols for the “Old Folks” at Christmas. Some of the Dinnerladies were in the audience. You want to know did I go speak to them? Well I did. They all remembered me. I was pleased to remember them.

Belated thanks for making our playtimes happy to Mesdames Riley, Tetlock, Inman, Airey, Redman, Vose, and the lady with the face like a kitten, and the one who asked “Are you out?” in a loud voice and made us giggle all through the Nativity…(we were in trouble for that…)


3 thoughts on “in loco parentis…

  1. I really enjoyed your fond remembrance of the Dinnerladies. It reminds me of a special companion, Mrs. Carter, whom I was allowed to sit at tea in her home all by myself. We would talk about gentle subjects…high school, the Bible, birds, and every once in a while, she would set down a very clear message regarding character.I knew it was a kind of warning that was heavy on importance, just like an almond tea-cake appeared light and delicate, but was truly laden with cream…. Much goodness in life comes from conversation designed in pinky fingers poised, bringing tea-cups to one’s lips, in sync with the honeied
    taste passing wisdom and charm to warm one’s sweet soul.

    1. Hi svenskaborschka, Thank you for your comment. We were lucky then to be able to spend time with those willing to share their experiences. The gift was this lady’s too – she framed her message lightly but neatly and carefully, without making young shoulders feel like they were having to carry old heads. Tea is a blessing too – all best wishes to you, voxturturis

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