Then he picked up mine, with an affectionate smile.
I have no memory of the topic, or what the thing he liked so much about it was.
But having read the extract and allowed my classmates time to savour it – more than they needed, I’m sure – he proceeded to make a general point about the Leaving Cert exam then looming.
First he surveyed the whole room and declared that everyone, with sufficient work, could get honours.
The most dazzling compliment I ever received from a school-teacher was delivered one day in English class, circa 1978, by the late Mr O’Brien.
English Essays For Leaving Cert
I realise that when they hear it now, some cruel readers may laugh.Our English teacher now was Mr Flanagan, who liked my essays too.Yet I could tell that there was something about them that worried him. Whereas, he explained, now citing the example of classmates as something I needed to follow, “you’re expected to write five”. Many years later, in another century, this paper asked several ageing reporters to sit a Leaving Cert exam of their choice, for a features series.It appears as if the examiner is simply allowing you to express yourself for a quarter of your grade. You need to ensure you make the right choice for your composition. In the exam it’s important that you read the composition questions before you do anything else on the paper.In this way ideas can be fermenting in the back of your mind while you’re tackling comprehensions.Of all questions, don’t let this attitude take hold here.Do plenty of practice comprehensions over the course of the year, starting now.A Grade B was the dizzy summit of my ambition, and I might need oxygen equipment even to get that far. Then the exam happened, and if it had been on a mountain, I would have had to be airlifted off it to safety.I can’t recall all the things I did wrong that day, but the least forgivable was not reading the paper properly and omitting a compulsory question. Not having a better life plan yet, I decided to repeat the Leaving Cert.Two months later, I was the owner of a Grade D: personal humiliation worsened by the shame of letting my teacher down. I could give up some subjects, and take on new ones.And I could have another go at English, getting that elusive B at the second attempt. The newspaper habit, considered weird by contemporaries, foreshadowed a vocation.