The not so secret teacher


The not so secret teacher

18 Feb ’16 #Success Teaching 0

I have bemoaned with The Guardian Twitter handle that the over riding outlook to the “Secret Teacher” blog is cloudy with a good chance of rain. Read the header and you are asked if you have an idea for an anonymous blog about the “trials, tribulations and frustrations of school life?”

Up until last night, I really didn’t have a good enough idea. There has been no a trial, there has been no suffering (at least not on my part), and this idea is far from frustration. I am left wondering, if I post it here on this blog first, will I even qualify as anonymous?

The not so Secret Teacher

It is Wednesday, mid-evening. The house is remarkably quiet. It is remarkably quiet because my wife and I, and our young three young children, boldly adventured to the Natural History Museum. We are exhausted. Our children, too exhausted to complain, have gone to bed almost willingly. My wife and I are watching a recorded episode of Vera. We hardly ever watch “live” television these days.

The quiet chime of an incoming email, too familiar during term-time, causes me to look down at my phone. From Xxxxx Xxxxxxx and the words “Thank you.” The name is familiar but not expected… A former student who was in my English class four years and two jobs ago. Maybe…

Hi Mr Still, haha [Definitely]

You may not remember me, [I do.] but you taught me at xxxxxxx, and came to visit me on my work experience at xxxxxxx xxxxxx veterinary [I’ll forgive her the dropped capitals. She probably thumb typed out the entire email]. I think I just wanted to say thank you, I’ve just been reading e.e Cummings poetry, and while still writing my own [brilliant], I remembered you had great confidence in me and always helped me in my writing. [Still writing. Can there be a better reason to teach? Not for the grade but for the joy. For the “want to.“] Being critical was a huge help [It was? I hoped it would be. But it was pretty radical back then.] I found a poem I wrote the other day about a mosquito – you assigned us to write about an animal I think [I did.] maybe a scary or deadly one, and while people wrote about lions and tigers I thought outside the box and went for something so tiny but so dangerous. [She did. I smiled. You see, she was often individual and insightful like that.] You marked it and gave me praise but also improvement pointers [Did I? My word, less controversial than critical though.] I remember doing GCSE poetry like it was yesterday and I hated school but I just wanted you to know that I loved poetry and secretly looked forward to it. It’s such a passion of mine. [My italics, not hers. Not that she loved my teaching then? Just poetry. I am of course joking.] I think it’s thanks to you partly as when I wrote that poem I knew I had a bit of talent which I never thought I’d discover! And you always helped us look so deeply into the words and people never really took it seriously but I totally loved it. [If only you could see me now; sitting so very proud of her.] I kept the “moon on the rides” book  I’m sure that was the title [Moon on the Tides and it was an anthology.] Still have it now and always look at annotations. Glad to see you’re doing well and just wanted to really say thank you for taking the job and poetry in general so seriously [That’s sounds more like me – a serious teacher.] because it was a good time in my life I thoroughly enjoyed it. Take care. [A big sigh.]


I was really taken aback by her kind words and I simply handed the phone to my wife to read the email. My wife smiled and handed the phone back. We talked briefly. I rewinded Vera and proceeded to half-watched and reply to the email.

I told Xxxxx that I was bowled over by her comments. I told her that I saw that poetry as a way she could express herself and you read it in her own words, a way for her to develop her self-confidence. I’d say she has had some success here. She tells me she has ambition to be an RSPCA investigator and is applying for a role as a PCSO.

I wonder if the Secret Teacher will like my idea?

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