Friday, 10 March 2017

Dear Miss Bigg,

Dear Miss Bigg,

Firstly I apologise for the formal address- perhaps you would prefer Jody? Though I also think I heard that you've married- perhaps you aren't even Miss Bigg (in either case- you will always be Miss Bigg to me). I've been meaning to write this for a while- every time I read one of the articles in the TES where celebrities share their thoughts on heir favourite teachers, my thoughts go to the main reason that I decided to go into this insane (though also insanely wondrous) profession.

It all goes back to my Year 8 English lessons. It had been a rough year for staff turnover when it came to our class: we had had several teachers across the year and I remember that the mixture started with an eccentric, and bald, gentleman who taught us that irony was him going to get a haircut. Then I remember a couple of others- well I say remember them, I remember that there were others before you started as a head of department at our school. In those first lessons I remember really enjoying English (specifically literature) for the first time: I still have the collection of poetry you had us write for (and my students are always shocked when they pick it up to read and see me name next to a poem by my teenage self).

The next time I had you was for GCSE. There I remember you helping me to enjoy Shakespeare, developing my thirst for more texts outside of the classroom and leading to my study of Literature at A Level. The best thing about A level was your obvious enthusiasm for the texts you taught: if anything it is this that I keep hoping to emulate in my own lessons now. Studying Carter's 'Nights at the Circus' and Blake's poetry was challenging but your enthusiasm helped me develop my own (I cannot help but think of this when my Year 13 students beg me to read Blake's poetry aloud- I'm hoping that this means that they're enjoying it as much as I am).

However, none of this was the thing that made me decide that I wanted to teach English for a profession: this came when I got to help out in your classes during my free lessons in sixth form. Here I saw you working with a (mostly male) bottom set of Year 9s, engaging them in Shakespeare through having them act out the banquet scene with a real banquet and getting them involved in the complex issues of 'Of Mice and Men'. Supporting that class got me hooked.

Despite being unsure of that choice at the end of university- leading to considering event management and settling for retail management before realising that it made me miserable- I'm now a teacher of English and also a subject leader up in Yorkshire (a bit of a trek from Essex). I suppose that really I wanted to thank you. Yes, this job is hard; yes, the changes that come from various directions present a struggle that is often uphill. But I'm still hooked and happy- I'm convinced that this is the best job in the world. Everyday I work, I get to work with topics and texts that I enjoy- and I hope that means I'm getting my students just as enthusiastic as you got that bottom set Year 9 class back in Essex.

Yours faithfully,