Sue Bolton – TEDx Talk TRANSCRIPT
I have the best job in the world. I’ve been teaching English here at SWPS for the best part of 30 years now. And I spend my working life introducing new generations to the stories of Shakespeare, Jane Austen, Charlotte Bronte. But it very nearly didn’t happen; I only just scraped through my teacher training, with the help of a little bit of bullying and the threat of a bit of physical violence.
Have I ever told you that story? Possibly not. It was my second teaching practice in South Yorkshire, and things weren’t going well. My tutor had come to see a lesson, and it was make-or-break time. It was a year-10 group. On this side of the room, we had Denise and Tracy, worldly, tough young women – 14 going on 40. On this side of the room, we had a group of wriggling boys who spent all of my lessons thumping each other and breaking wind, and they were 14 going on 4, and I had no idea what to do with them, whatsoever.
My tutor appeared. Denise immediately took on what was going on: “Now then, Miss, is that your inspector?” No point in trying to fool Denise, so I said, “Yes, Denise.”
“It’s important, isn’t it, Miss?”
“Yes, Denise, it’s important.”
“Don’t worry, Miss. We’ll give you a good lesson.”
I thought, “Oh.” At which point, she elbowed me out of the way and hissed across the room: “Here, you lot, that there’s her inspector at back of room, and if you don’t give her a good lesson, I’ll do you.” I thought “I can’t let this happen,” but I did, of course I did, course I did. And the lesson was fantastic. Forest of hands up, every question I asked, and the tutor was really impressed: “Well done, Miss Charlton. You’ve cracked it at last.” And that was it; I was away.
Now, I’ve told this story many times. I like this story. It’s one of my favorites. And one of the reasons I like it is because it was a tough time. Lots of great things about that time, but it was a tough time. But in the story, the difficult things – the humiliations, the despair – they’re all edited out. And it reminds me of everything I loved about that year in Sheffield.