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Friday, 13 September 2013


A 101-year-old author  flew from New York to Northampton this week for the stage premier of his 1959 novel To Sir With Love.  The indomitable E R Braithwaite received a standing ovation at the Royal and Derngate Theatre when the audience realised he had been sitting amongst them throughout the performance.

Set in post-war Stepney, this semi-autobiographical novel  follows  a black schoolmaster's attempt to tame a class of unruly  kids who do everything in their power to make his life a misery. Despite his lack of experience the teacher stays strong in the face of extreme provocation and gradually gains the respect of his pupils. Clearly a tale of its time, the play points the finger at upper class racism as didthe hugely successful  nineteen sixties film Guess Who's Coming to Dinner just a decade later.

Contrast this with Channel Four's Educating Yorkshire  which was heavily criticised in the  Mail's TV review column today.  According to Christopher Stevens 'Cliques of arrogant, swaggering pupils had the staff dancing to their every command... The savvier youngsters took all the advantage they could. It was sickening to watch.'

Educating Yorkshire takes the cameras inside Thornhill Community Academy in Dewsbury, Yorkshire, where head teacher Jonny Mitchell prefers be on equal terms with his charges, greeting them with a cheery 'Hello Mate' at the start of a new term.

We've all come across a teacher who battles to control their class at some time or other. But a head teacher who doesn't command respect?  Now that's  a different story altogether. What do you think?


Elaineyross said...

Well I haven't been able to watch a whole episode from start to finish as the attitude of the teacher and the children literally makes me squirm with embarrassment. To whom do I attribute this? I have to say the teacher is at fault. I knew my place when I was at school and quite frankly it was a relief to have those ground rules as I became equal with my school chums, when in fact I felt inferior to them at times. Having respect for the teachers was a great leveller (and I don't think I turned out too badly - ha ha)!

Guernsey Girl said...

Pretty good, I'd say, but then I'm biased...:) As for the programme - if that's how the pupils treat their head teacher, I feel sorry for their future employers!

Barbara said...

Why oh why do school teachers (and head teachers) think it’s necessary to be ‘mates’ with the children under their care? My old head teacher was loved and feared in about the same measure – you loved him if you were behaving yourself and feared him if you weren’t. I grew up with a respect for authority that has stayed with me to this day.