TEACHING HISTORY

The very first time
I heard about the holocaust
with all it’s tinkly, pretty names;
Belzec, Sobibor, Treblinka, Auschwitz
(ouch-vitz!)
I was thirteen
and not expecting it at all.

(I still thought mankind was good).

Miss Merle Hesse told me;

(Did she shrink from her name?)

she was my history teacher
and she did her job well.
I Google her name and shame!
she did not exist

(except for me and the class of ‘81).

I want to write her a letter, all the same;
to thank her
and ask her to explain
what will happen now.

©Cindy Taylor 2008

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14 thoughts on “TEACHING HISTORY

  1. Such an interesting story within the poem and perspective on your history teacher…my Mr. Wills definitely deserves a poem..I must make a note of that…where’s the pad I bought at you suggestion? 😉 Enjoyed you poem.

    • I am certain that Mr Wills is long gone, but the lessons he taught went far beyond history…more into the fabric of life. I am always amazed that I had the teachers I had…they changed my life in so many ways.

      • We grew up during a dark period of South Africa’s history, but had the blessing of falling under a group of progressive-thinking teachers, thank God.

  2. I have no idea why, but we never discussed the 2nd World War in History, both at primary and high school. I learnt about it through books and, of course, movies. Odd? Although at the time I never paid much attention, having a really boring teacher, lol!

    • I had three teachers who had great impact on my life, they taught History, English and Art. There was some dreadful teachers, but I don’t want to remember them.

  3. I was wondering if you ever thought of changing the structure of your website? Its very well written; I love what youve got to say. But maybe you could a little more in the way of content so people could connect with it better. Youve got an awful lot of text for only having one or 2 images. Maybe you could space it out better?

  4. You say you found out that Miss Merle Hesse died? Do you have any more details? She was a very dear friend of mine. She was a fellow student at Natal University in the sixties, and I taught Social Studies briefly at Eunice High School while she was the History teacher there, before I went on the become senior lecturer at UNISA and thereafter Professor of English at UNIN. I moved to the UK in 1988 and established Diadem Books. I often think of Merle and wondered what happened to her. Excellent poem, by the way.

    • Thank you Dr Muller. I don’t know how Miss Hesse died, I think she had a long life and died peacefully. Miss Vos / Mrs Posthumous also died about a year ago, you may remember her too?

      • Thank you. I’m sad to hear Mrs Posthumous has passed on too. I think she appointed me because Merle had recommended me. I know they were close friends (I noticed them once at the ‘Drive-In’ together). She certainly had a zest for life, though I wouldn’t say Merle had a long life – she was two years younger than me and on Thursday I shall “only” be 69! I remember Merle for her great sense of humour, sincerity, honesty and avoidence of any pretentiousness. Let me know if you ever find out more, like when she died. I last saw her when I visited her in 1976. I was shocked to see how overweight she was. She was delighted to see me and offered me some beer and before the end of the evening she was legless! I am so glad you have immortalised her in your poem. She was a wonderful friend.

      • I will get some details from our reunie crowd. There was much ribald speculation about the exact nature of Mrs P and Mis Hesse amongst us girls. Miss Hesse was a teacher of the best calibre.

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