Answer by Debbie Burton:
‘Get out of my classroom, NOW,’ shouted my history teacher, a kind and calm man whose raised voice I had never heard.
He was shouting at two older kids who’d suddenly burst in and interrupted our lesson on the Romans, or the Germans, or the Gold Rush (you get the picture). They were yelling, quite aggressively, to my sheltered 13-year-old mind, about how unhappy they were with something. It was a long time ago so forgive me but it was something like their recent test scores and how Mr McVeigh (I still remember his name now) was to blame.
Us younger students sat aghast at the heated exchange. This was unusual to say the least and I started to feel really sorry for our lovely teacher.
The shouting went on for a bit and just when I seriously thought it might turn physical, Mr McVeigh told them to leave NOW and they turned and marched out the classroom, slamming the door hard enough to make the glass panel shake.
‘I am so sorry about that,’ said our teacher (such a nice man). ‘This is all very embarrassing.’
‘I need to let the headteacher know. Please can you take a new sheet of paper and write down what just happened and a description of both of them.’
I scribbled away – two guys, think they’re in sixth form, came in and loudly shouted, one was wearing a blue shirt… Etc, etc.
We handed the sheets in. And what happened next has stayed with me since.
You might have guessed…
Our lovely Mr McVeigh had stitched us up good and proper. The ‘aggressive older students’ were acting.
He was about to teach us an amazing lesson about the trustworthiness of history’s eye witnesses.
He started to write all the conflicting descriptions and accounts on the whiteboard. Blonde hair… Brown hair… Jeans… Khakis… Said he was gonna sue… Said he’d burn your car… Blue shirt… Grey shirt…
‘Few of your descriptions match, and that’s about an event which happened only a few minutes ago. Imagine you are being interviewed about an historic event you witnessed, days, weeks or even years later. You can start to see how – although important – the eye witness does have some weaknesses.’
Blew my little mind.
Update: Wow thank you for reading and for the comments. Kudos and thanks to all the teachers like MrMcVeigh out there.