The extraordinary fun of learning

It takes a special kind of teacher to let you stand at the classroom sink grating potatoes while all around your classmates are studying history. But 45 years ago Mrs Greig was just that. A special kind of teacher, a very special kind.

She taught me for my last two years at primary school, and among other achievements she helped me experience the exhilaration of exploring new ideas with single-minded determination.


Quite how it began I don’t recall, but I’d developed a fascination for glue (not the sniffing kind, these are innocent times I’m talking about) and between us we’d discussed the principle that you might be able to turn a humble potato into strong adhesive.

The process involved grating up a heap of spuds, placing the results in cold water, running this through a sieve, then filtering the mixture to capture the starch which – finally – had boiling water poured on it, to produce the end result. Glue.

What I remember above all was Mrs Greig understanding my enthusiasm and giving me carte blanche to carry out my manufacturing mission when really I should have been learning about Tudor England.

The feeling you get when your curiosity inspires you to seek out an explanation, and perhaps to go somewhere or do something as a result, is a powerful one, and a great way to give yourself a boost.

So be on the lookout for things that make you go ‘Huh?’, then happily spend a little time searching out some answers.

It’s fabulous to do this. As Mrs Greig knew.

9 thoughts on “The extraordinary fun of learning

  1. I just love this nudge. Thank you so much for telling us about Mrs Greig .
    For some strange reason it made me cry. Beautiful teaching

  2. What a wonderful teacher and person she must have been…and hope she still is!
    Very inspiring lady and inspiring post Jon. Thank you.

  3. great reflection! I wondered if you also got that little spark of happiness that comes from gratitude for Mrs Greig and her kindness and excellence as a teacher.

    Then there’s the tested-and-proven-effective happiness technique that goes one step farther… writing a letter to Mrs Greig (– and even better delivering it and reading it yourself to her, if possible) — to let her know how much you appreciated her as a teacher and how your freedom to explore glue-making contributed to your ongoing appreciation of the fun and sparkle of following one’s curiosity…

    At any rate, this works in lots of ways!

    1. This is an especially inspiring post and I love it. It reminds me of one of my primary school teachers. It illustrates the importance of allowing teachers to go with the flow and teach whatever will inspire his/her pupils rather than have a prescribed curriculum. I had a vivid image of you making your glue 🙂

  4. I really enjoyed this nudge! I read it as an important nudge to me as parent to try and get in the heads of my two small children (2 and 5) to reinforce and support their curiosity and in doing so remind myself of the importance of following up on ‘huh’ moments for myself too. Sometimes I think children make great teachers to us mature adults!! When life is busy, it seems much easier to get irritated, scold and put things away for the umpteenth time, rather than take a few seconds to try putting the sieve on my own head and see what exciting impact it has on my vision!! I am going to try and indulge in and share my children’s curiosity a little more today!

  5. Mrs Greig was certainly someone very special. That story is heartwarming, Jon. Wow. Imagine if all teachers were like that… (speaking as a teacher!)

  6. Sorry Jon – not quite your scene – but it has just occured to me that ladies with long backs would benefit from wearing Empire Line dresses or at least high- waisted dresses. Well certainly with the modern fashion of ‘ just – below – the – waist ‘ belts ‘. . . Even the ‘ fashionable ‘ leggings ‘
    tend to drag down to cause discomfort, AND THUS automatically pull the shoulders forward.

  7. Strangely I found myself in an art store today, buying glue for a bookbinding project (more of which another day). One of the options was a tub of starch, which you could turn into glue by mixing it with water, then boiling it all up. And to think it all started with a pound of potatoes. Thanks Mrs G.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *