In a room full of A-listers and national treasures, an unknown woman in a simple black suit stole the entire show. During ITV’s An Audience With Adele, the singer enjoyed a tearful reunion with Ms McDonald, an old English teacher at Chestnut Grove Academy that she reportedly hadn’t seen in two decades.
Adele went from supremely smooth mistress of ceremonies to blubbing teenager as she embraced the teacher (and kept referring to her, per teacher/pupil tradition, as ‘Ms McDonald’). “You really did change my life,” Adele told her in between sobs. The clip went viral for a good reason.
Everyone can relate to that moment, knowing there is a teacher somewhere in the past that offered encouragement or shone a light on a more sensible path. Most of us get misty-eyed while talking about ‘That One Teacher’ who brought out their academic, creative or social side.
The best ones teach, inspire, motivate and help beyond the call of duty, long after the school bell rings. When you’re small, uncertain about life or simply worried about periods or boys, having a grown-up offering a helping hand or taking an interest is appreciated more than anyone will ever know. In my case, I was lucky to have two.
Mrs Briody in primary school treated me like Shakespeare-in-waiting, even sending me up to the higher classes to read my essays aloud (as a dozen kids in sixth class eyeballed me hatefully — quite the character-building experience).
Later, it was Mrs Skelly, who took me aside in English and wondered aloud if I’d ever consider journalism after school after I’d submitted my 25th tear-drenched essay on Kurt Cobain that year.
Now, I hate to cut through the gloopy sentimentality here, but inspiring and taking an interest in your young charges is the job spec if you’re a teacher, no? Because while I might have had two truly inspirational teachers, I went through at least two dozen teachers in my school-going career.
The only reason I had Mrs Skelly at all is because I was relegated to ordinary level English by a teacher who didn’t believe I was worth having in her class. One morning, out of nowhere, this teacher decided on a sizeable cull. “But I love English. I’m good at it,” I protested. But no, I was a troublemaker and a flibbertigibbet and a dose, so off to pass English I went.
It became a running joke among my friends in adulthood: the one of us who writes for the newspapers and reads 75 books a year didn’t even make it through honours English in school. Yet this slight stung for months afterwards, and I carried her dismissal as intractable proof that I was an idiot.
You forget how vulnerable and impressionable you are at the age of 14, and how important it is for someone to say, ‘you’ll get where you need to go in the end. I believe in you’.
Thanks to Mrs Skelly, I left school with my A in (pass) English, and always wondered what might have been had I been given the chance I wanted. As an adult, you get to know teachers as real, actual people with lives. You realise they are human and, like the wider population, there are both good and bad ones.
For every teacher counting down the minutes to the summer holidays or booting it out the door at 3pm on the dot, there are others who take their duty seriously and respect the power that they have.
At a time when the transformative power of good teaching is rarely given the credit it deserves, the Ms McDonalds of the world are all the more special. It’s time they got the gratitude they deserve.
I am furiously side-eyeing reports this week that Labour MP Stella Creasy was given a rap on the knuckles from the higher-ups for bringing her three-month-old son to a debate in the Commons.
Creasy took part in a debate on financial products last week as her son slept quietly in a baby-carrier. Historically, new mothers in Parliament have previously carried their newborn children — who are often still breastfeeding — into the Commons for debates, and authorities have, until now, taken a kinder stance on it.
“Mothers in the mother of all parliament are not to be seen or heard it seems... #21stCenturyCalling,” Creasy tweeted. In September, Creasy’s infant was strapped to her as she rose in the chamber to ask Commons Leader Jacob Rees-Mogg to ensure new mothers were supported rather than “rebuked” when returning to Parliament.
While some noted that Creasy’s decision to bring her child to work was “performative grandstanding”, it’s probably safe to assume she’d rather not have to deal with the onerous task of juggling politics and parenting.
I don’t see someone trying make a point — I see a woman trying her best to make her life work under challenging circumstances. Perhaps her very male-dominated workspace could put support of new parents into practice.
Maybe they could back it up with real action and investment, as opposed to the usual amounts of useless lip service and jargon about ‘flexibility’. Just a thought.
It never ceases to amaze me why certain people feel the need to drag people online when the alternative is to scroll on by or change the TV channel.
This week, Angela Scanlon clapped back against her decision to wear a dramatic Simone Rocha dress on her Saturday night chatshow.
“What’s with the big sleeves,” one person noted. And another: “Who does your wardrobe, they need sacking.”
Scanlon was more than able to respond (“I wear clothes I like & feel comfortable in for ME, not you”). Still, in case anyone needs reminding, it’s perfectly acceptable to keep that sort of stuff to yourself.