As for novels about teachers, it doesn’t get much better than Muriel Spark’s The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, but another favourite of mine is The English Teacher from RK Narayanan’s Malgudi series. I also loved the thoughtful primary school teacher, Katie, in Linda Huber’s The Cold Cold Sea and the disillusioned English teacher, Lawrence, and his son, RE teacher, Lewis, in Alison Moore’s He Wants. And let’s not forget that the much loved literary governess, Jane Eyre, also spends a short time teaching in a school.
Twin stone staircases led to a wooden door, the numbers 1873 embossed above, grand as the entrance to a castle. At school I’d learn to read, and never have to go without a story. I’d mount those steps like a fairytale princess, entering one day by the left side, the next the right.
I didn't realise the letters above the stairs spelt BOYS on one side and GIRLS on the other. That my mother would laugh, plead, then slap me on the legs and hoist me up like a sack of coal when I raced towards the wrong one.
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Nowadays, children don’t just learn to read and to write their own stories, but to analyse how stories work. I was most surprised the first time a child contacted me to enquire about one of my stories he was studying for a school project. Of course, I was flattered but also a little uneasy: stories that feature child protagonists aren’t necessarily suitable for children to read. But as I’m neither an educationalist nor a children’s writer, I left that for others to judge.