Terry is an experienced primary school teacher, popular with pupils, parents and the rest of the staff. But Laurie, the new acting principal, bristles at his intuitive laid-back style. As a much younger woman in a senior position, she’s conscious of the need to assert her authority right from the start; unfortunately, her approach rubs everyone up the wrong way. Alarm bells start to ring when she catches sight of Terry at a student’s house in the evening, contrary to child safeguarding policies.
Author Suzanne Leal is a lawyer experienced in child protection, and she deals with a disturbing issue in a sensitive manner. Highlighting the pressures and complexity of the teacher’s role, The Teacher’s Secret would be a good choice for book groups. A fine addition to the collection of novels with a school setting. Thanks to Legend Press for my advance proof copy.
When I was invited to join the blog tour, I took the opportunity to ask the author to share a little more of her thinking around the child protection issues in the novel. This was her response:
At the same time, community attention was being brought towards the historical and continuing abuse of children by mostly male figures of authority, including teachers. This juxtaposition - between the supportive, essential teachers my children had experienced and the abuse that other people’s children had endured - made me ask myself the question: when does the behaviour of a teacher become inappropriate? When does behaviour, perhaps long accepted, become unacceptable? And what is the place of policy and procedure in making such decisions?
These were the sensitive questions I wanted to consider in writing about the much loved Year 6 teacher, Terry Pritchard, and the new acting principal, Laurie Mathews.
Rather than stating a position on the situation, I wanted to simply present these characters to the reader and let the reader consider the situation. This is the joy of writing fiction - the ability to present a dilemma without necessarily solving or judging it. It provides a stark contrast to my legal work as a tribunal member when I need to give a decision in relation to each case that comes before me.
Meanwhile, the blog tour continues for my own novel about a man for whom there is no doubt as to whether he’s crossed the line. Nevertheless, as I wrote in my post on Fictionalising the Mentally Disordered Offender for imhblog, his behaviour is the outcome of various unfortunate events. Other posts this week include Five questions with Cornflakegirl’s Musings (on my background in clinical psychology, the novel versus the short story, the solitary nature of writing, social media and a book recommendation); a second Author Interview, with Chat About Books (where I particularly enjoyed imagining inviting Charlotte Brontë for tea at the house where she is said to have set Jane Eyre; guest posts on The passion for travel and the concept of home and, in the Raw Literature series, Brave and subversive, like gazing upon the surface of a pond. Today’s guest post, You don’t know until you try!, is about finding the courage to follow your dreams.