Apples are the traditional gift for a beloved teacher, but I know a lot of teachers and think most of us would prefer a bit more of a treat. I’ve received some nice gifts in my time, but I think Italy is definitely the best place to be if you’re into sweet treats. During my time there I got homemade tiramisu, chocolate salami and this Union Jack tart (poor picture, but you get the point):
I’m thinking of making the move from TEFL to primary or secondary teaching next year, and in order to write my personal statement I have been pondering why I want to do so (besides potential treats from students, obviously) and looking back on the teachers who have inspired me over the years. My all time favourite teacher is my 6th form English teacher, Judy. By the last year of secondary school most of the teachers had a friendly relationship with my class and no longer treated us like children – we got on pretty well. But 6th form was something else and Judy really demonstrated how different things were. First of all, we got to call all our teachers by their first names. On top of that, Judy was American (probably the first American I really knew), and swore in class. A lot.
She taught me both English Language and Literature, and her passion for these subjects really inspired me. She was the first person to make me realise that I had a non-standard dialect and accent (you know how you always just assume that you talk normally and it’s everyone else who has a funny accent) and introduced me to various quirks of our language and to the wonderful world of sociolinguistics. And she really brought literature to life for me, far beyond anything in secondary school. I remember how she hated Hardy, read his passages aloud derisively and ranted about Tess of the d’Ubervilles, so much so that when I finally read that book last year I read the whole thing in her voice and didn’t rate the novel very highly. Likewise she was so passionate about Tennessee Williams that I absolutely fell in love with his plays.
In other ways as well she really brought me out of myself – I was an extremely shy teenager, and once she called me back after class to ask why I didn’t speak up and told me that shyness was no excuse and she expected to hear from me. She really built up my confidence so that by the end of the two years I was happily contributing in class and already beginning to think about teaching as a career. In the run up to our A-level exams she started setting an essay a week to be “thrown into Mount Doom” (the cardboard box where she kept all her marking) on completion. The essays were optional, for everyone except my friend Emma and me, whom Judy used to hunt down for our work. She also tracked us down after the final exam to see how we got on, only to find us with a supply of hot chocolate and double chocolate cookies: “It can’t have been that bad!” she laughed.
I think a good teacher has to be one who is passionate about their subject and instils that passion in others, but makes a lasting impression beyond that. I remember Judy as much for that confidence and support she gave as for her wonderful way with words and literature. I don’t think I ever gave her a present, but if I were to do so now it would not be a mere apple. Apple muffins are far superior!
Makes 8, slightly adapted from BBC GoodFood
1 tsp ground ginger
100g golden caster sugar
225g plain flour
3 tsp baking powder
pinch of salt
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp vanilla extract
1. Preheat the oven to 200C and line a muffin tin with paper cases.
2. Peel, core and chop the apple. Put the chunks in a bowl and toss with the ginger to coat. Set aside.
3. Cream together the butter and sugar.
4. Sift the flour, baking powder, salt and cinnamon into the bowl. Mix together.
5. Pour in the buttermilk and vanilla and beat well, then fold in the apples.
6. Spoon the batter into the paper cases and bake for 25 minutes.
7. Cool on a wire rack, and eat them while they’re warm!