A fortnight ago I heard that the English master who taught me at school, the great Frank Miles, had died, aged 92. Although he was a teaching giant and recognised as such by former pupils and colleagues, there is just a brief mention of him on the Internet. That is exactly as he would have wanted it: modern communication methods were not for him. He only just tolerated the telephone; a telephone which rang at an inopportune moment, such as when he was marking essays or exam papers, could easily be thrown out of the window.
But when he was teaching, Frank made his inflexible views extremely plain. The classroom was his theatre. In physical presence he was quite slight. But to a boy of my age his reputation made him seem several times life-size. That reputation alone was enough to cause fear into the lazy and quell the uncontrollable. He didn’t have to do anything to keep order. Lessons would begin with what a friend has described as a “ferocious, almost neurotic intensity.” They could also be very funny, as long as the class was performing to the highest level.
Frank’s critical remarks were annihilating. After the first homework our class ever did for him, Frank judged the standard so poor throughout the entire class that he tore up every incorrect composition and threw it in the bin. All except one, and I blush to write that the piece saved was mine. It would have been much better for me if someone else’s homework had been picked.
He was highly intolerant of those who disagreed with him. By today’s standards he was deeply politically incorrect and had little time for rules and regulations. In fact, in the modern bureaucratic world he would be considered a problematic teacher.
Yet he was a truly inspirational teacher who held his class in focused attention. Because, above all, he had a complete passion not only for his subject but also for education. What was most important to him was his pupils’ intellectual understanding of English, and he was not afraid to reprimand them when they were failing to reach his high standards. Frank would have taught anyone who showed a spark of aptitude for his subject as he was determined to raise standards. He was particularly pleased when a boy who had previously had a low level could achieve spectacular results.
He was quite a peculiar man. His mannerisms and language lent themselves so well to imitation that the image of boys pretending to be Frank is sometimes more vivid than the memory of Frank himself.
In the restaurant, after the funeral service, we discussed the never-ending question: who was Frank? He once told me how lucky I was to come from a loving family. He had not got on with his father. Other than that, his childhood was to us a complete blank, as was his emotional life.
He lived for his pupils; if other relationships had once existed, nobody knew about them. Although he detested snobbery and money, he could be considered an elitist—but only in the sense that he expected the best from every boy he taught, whatever their background or potential.
I was lucky to come under the eyes of a classroom colossus. Sadly, Frank did not find relationships outside the classroom easy. He became a recluse in his last decade and died in a basic flat. And the tragedy is that I never told him how much he had influenced my life—and that of many others.
Text adapted from the Daily Mail (July 16, 2013)
- slight: menut, prim / menudo, delgado
- quell (to quell): apaivagar, calmar / apaciguar, calmar
- tore (to tear): estripar / romper
- blush (to blush): ruboritzar-se / sonrojarse
- spark: espurna, mica / chispa, pizca
- mannerism: peculiaritat, gest d’expressió / peculiaridad, gesto de expresión
Choose the best answer according to the text. Only ONE answer is correct. [4 points: 0.5 points for each correct answer. Wrong answers will be penalized by deducting 0.16 points. There is no penalty for unanswered questions.]
1. The author of the text knew about the death of Frank Miles
- a long time ago.
- through a phone call.
- from his colleagues.
- quite recently. X
2. The author also states that information about Frank Miles
- can be found on most educational websites.
- was widely spread on the Internet.
- was not available on the Internet.
- was hardly mentioned on the Internet. X
3. According to the text, Frank Miles calmed his rebellious students thanks
- to his physical appearance.
- to his good manners.
- to his weak character.
- to his strong personality. X
4. Frank’s classes could be very funny
- provided the students were at their best. X
- only when the students behaved correctly.
- provided the students did their homework.
- as long as the students paid attention.
5. The author thinks that Frank Miles was a remarkable teacher because
- he had an intellectual understanding of English.
- he was passionate about educational values. X
- he never reprimanded his rebellious pupils.
- he had little interest in raising his students’ results.
6. According to the text, which of the following statements about Frank Miles’ character is TRUE?
- He had a passion for rules and regulations.
- He tolerated diversity of opinion.
- He was intolerant with his students’ low standards. X
- His students were never frightened by his criticism.
7. The author considered Frank Miles elitist because he
- fancied money and snobbery.
- ignored rebellious students.
- had particular mannierisms.
- demanded the best from his pupils. X
8. During his last decade, Frank Miles lived
- surrounded by his ex-pupils.
- alone in his wealthy house.
- on his own in a modest apartment. X
- in a hostel for the homeless.