Being a Teacher - Blog Entry

I love my students, all of them. My students are the best things in the world. They are lovely, committed, complicated, stressed, confused, trusting, talented, suspicious, open, interested, capable, supportive, funny, energetic, intelligent, wise, bored, tired, engaging and present. I adore my students (even the tricky ones!); I believe every teacher should. Some of them will succeed, some of them will choose different paths; they give me far more than I could ever give them. My boss and ex-tutor, Tony James, leads by example in that he truly loves his students; I am following suit, for real, because I truly love mine. Tony and I talk for hours about the complexities of our students, they fascinate us.

I have friends who are teachers, but mostly they teach children. I do not sympathise with children, I don’t connect with them and have very little interest in them. I am a rare breed of woman completely devoid of the will to reproduce. I am content to imagine a childless future, but am also very aware that one day my body may make the decision for me. Hormones are a tremendously powerful thing (I have had murderous thoughts about the old lady who stands on the wrong side of the escalator when I am pre-menstrual; and I love the elderly a great deal more than I love children). I am not so ignorant to assume that just because I don’t want children now, I won’t in the future. This got me thinking about teachers. If I do decide, one day, to have children, who will teach them? I am currently studying with a teacher of children and she adores her students. She talks about them with the pride of a parent, even to the point where she’ll start a sentence with ‘my kids did this…’ She has never openly admitted it, but she misses her students, and thinks about them often. This is clear by how frequently she brings them up in conversation. We’re doing some pretty weird work at Central, and my friend has often commented about it in terms of what ‘her kids’ would think about it if they saw it. Her life as a teacher informs her work. My life as a teacher informs mine. Her love for her students is quietly inspirational. She respects her students. She is considering them, and what they might think, all the time. I hope my hypothetical future children ever get a teacher like her. Her name is Fay Stevenson.

I started thinking about my teachers. I attended a very tough, very posh all girls private school when I was a kid. My private school was a business; they needed us to get good grades so they could use them in their advertising to prospective parents (i.e. fee payers). The standards were high. If I went in at a C, they would push for a B only as a stepping stone to an eventual A. If I slipped even a few percent, I would immediately receive extra tuition and homework to get me right back up again. It worked; I received a tremendous education, but I will never forget the stress I was under to achieve. It wasn’t fun and I didn’t enjoy school. There were a few exceptions and I now realise that those were the teachers like Fay, the ones who really invested not just in our grades, but in us and creating in us the passion for the subject that they had. After I left I started writing letters to one, Joy Guy. She was my English teacher and I’m a huge grammar geek so of course I would love English, but it doesn’t necessarily follow suit that I would have to love my teacher. I did love Mrs Guy, and now that I am a teacher I realise that I loved her because she really loved English, and she really loved us. She’s not the only one, but those teachers are rare and she was the most influential. I believe that at 31, if I was to write a letter to Mrs Guy, I’d get a response. I was at Central the other day and someone said the word ‘crematoriums’. I knew that was wrong. ‘Crematorium’ is a neuter noun and descends like the Latin word ‘Templum’. Its plural is ‘Templa’, so the plural of ‘crematorium’ would be ‘crematoria’ (or ‘Millennium, Millennia’). The English word ‘seduce’ comes from the Italian ‘se ab ducere’ which comes from the Latin ‘se ab ducto’ meaning ‘to lead to yourself’. The English word ‘Horticulture’ comes from the Latin word ‘horto’, meaning ‘garden’ and ‘culto’ meaning ‘way of being’). Language is absolutely fascinating because my Latin teacher thought that language was absolutely fascinating, and she communicated this with passion.

I love theatre. It’s awesome. It’s what I study, it’s what I teach and it’s what I do. I could talk about why theatre is important to humanity for hours. I hope that I communicate that to my students in the same way that Mrs Guy and Mrs Hamlett did for me with English and Latin. I have no idea what kind of teacher I am; I’m certainly not professing to be a great one, but I know that the most excited person in my rehearsal room is usually me – as it should be. As a student at Rose Bruford, I was exposed to teachers who were not only passionate about their subject, but were also busy working it professionally. My tutors would spend their holidays working on professional projects. I read the original cast list of a play and found my teacher’s name; if that does not inspire confidence in your teachers, not much will. Since graduating, I have employed one of my tutors as a director. That was weird. He went from being my teacher, to being my boss, to being my director with me as his producer. It’s once we grow up that we really begin to see our parents as people, and it’s once we graduate that we really begin to see our teachers as professionals.

I’ve been very lucky; in school, college and drama school and also now with my master’s. I have been taught by people who are passionate about their subjects from (in my case) theatre to chemistry. I have recently accepted a teaching position at the University of Bath. It’ll be the first time for me teaching at degree level and I’m terrified and thrilled in equal measure. The point here is very simple: If you don’t love the subject, don’t teach it. Fall in love with your students, and if you can’t, try and get them to fall in love with the subject.

(C) Jade Allen 2014

Jade Allen