An interview with an English teacher
This week I’m interviewing one of my good friends, English teacher Sammi. Read on to get her perspective on teaching and sharing her love of reading.
You’ve been working as an English teacher for a few years now. As a child, which books inspired your love of reading and influenced your career choice?
I remember falling in love with the characters in Little Women by Louisa May Alcott. I liked to sit on a swing with my mum’s hardback copy of What Katy Did. I remember ordering The Diary of Anne Frank from my primary school’s book club. I loved all of these books at the time and they still stand out to me as books that reflect many aspects of childhood. I don’t know exactly what inspired my love of reading. I can’t ever remember that moment – I have just always read and it’s a part of me. 🙂
In terms of influencing my career choice, I wouldn’t say a particular book influenced me to become a teacher. But I knew that it was a job where I could potentially sit and discuss books and explore new ideas with young people. That’s something I love to do.
What’s the best thing about working in education?
There are lots of things that I love about being a teacher and the children are at the heart of it. It’s not necessarily anything to do with being an ‘English’ teacher that I love the most. It’s all the tiny little things that make your day and give you a special feeling. Getting a handmade Christmas card saying ‘You’re the best’ . A student came up to me at the end of my lesson last week and told me, ‘Thanks for that lesson Miss, I really enjoyed it’. It feels lovely to be appreciated in any job you do and I think it means far more coming from the students I teach than my colleagues.
One of the best things is watching students build confidence over a period of time in your lessons. I think English allows that, they become able to voice their opinions articulately and take risks with their writing. I love to watch their faces when I give back assessments where they have performed well.
What is the one thing about teaching English that you find most frustrating?
We are so constricted to teaching to a tightly packed curriculum to get the C and above in English Language that often we don’t have time to discuss literature and its meaning in a way that I think benefits young people far more than writing exam answers against a clock…. take a breath.
If you could only encourage your students to read one novel this year, what would it be?
To Kill a Mockingbird. I only read this book this year and I knew it was meant to be good but I didn’t know it was meant to be that good! As soon as I finished it I wanted to start it again and I spent many evenings on my honeymoon discussing it with my husband. Most schools study this book, but I have never taught in a school that teaches it. As many have probably said before me, I think all children and adults should read it. I am partial to books set in that time period, in that place and that deal with all the themes To Kill a Mockingbird explores.
Which books are you planning to read next? Do you have any that you secretly suspect you’ll never get round to?
I am planning to read Their Eyes were watching God, The Snow Child (I love stories set in this part of the world too!) and I intend to finish the Sookie Stackhouse series soon – I think there are three books left for me to read.
I would never say that I think I will never get round to reading something that is on my shelf. But I’m not a fast reader and there have been books sat on my shelf for years. Often I make a pact with myself that I am not allowed to buy any more books until I have read everything that I already have, but I can’t resist the temptation to buy more.
Are there any books you started but never finished?
No – I can’t not finish a book.
Is there a novel that particularly reflects your experience of working in a school?
I’ve thought about this and I don’t think that there is. I haven’t read many fiction books where teaching is central to the plot. Maybe that’s an opportunity right there for me to do it!
On a non-fiction note, I did once consider buying Getting the Buggers to Behave by Sue Cowley. But so many other people had it already on my teacher training course that I just flicked through their copy.
Would you ever be interested in writing a novel? If you could have written any existing book, what would it be?
Yes I would love to complete a novel one day and hope to do so. What would I like to have written? That’s really difficult because there are so many writers that I wish I could be as good as. There are so many books that I wish I had written for different reasons. I think the writing in The Virgin Suicides is gorgeous and I wish I could emulate it. The effect that To Kill a Mockingbird had on me was breath taking and I wish I could have such an impact on people with my writing. I thought Money by Martin Amis was hilariously tragic and so different to my style of writing that it would be interesting to attempt something like that.
I’m terrible for buying books and having piles of them lying around the house waiting to be read. How do you prefer to read: are you a Kindle addict, library regular or a paperback collector?
Paperback collector. I am kind of against the Kindle – not sure why. I just like to have an actual copy of the book that I’m reading in my hands. I like to place it on my book shelf. I would say I was a ‘collector’ because I don’t dispose of books, even if I didn’t like them, and I don’t give them away. I haven’t taken a book out of a library for years. When I was a child I forgot to take a book back and incurred a fine. I became too afraid to go back because I thought I would be told off by the librarian.
I like to keep my books as undamaged as possible. Do you have any pet hates about the way other people read or treat their books?
I used to try keeping books in pristine condition, but over the last couple of years I have been less bothered, as long as the book has been enjoyed by someone that’s all that matters. If we like reading as we relax in the bath and accidently drop it in, then it will dry. My husband cannot do anything until he has ‘finished the chapter’. It’s like ‘tea is ready’ – ‘just let me finish this chapter’ or ‘could you come and have a look at this?’, ‘Just let me finish this chapter’. I find it really frustrating. I don’t really mark points in my reading by chapters.
Once at a friend’s house we were having a heated discussion about a character in a book and my friend picked up the book and threw it across the room. Dropping it in the bath by accident is one thing…
And finally, do you have any random/funny/bizarre stories about books to share with us?
I had a literary themed wedding, which I sent you a picture of! I think it reflected our relationship well as my husband also has a huge passion for reading, albeit his choices are quite different from mine. We chose one of our wedding readings because we both read that book travelling around South America and it captures many of our feelings of that time.
I fold the corners on pages I like so that I can easily find them and I often run up to my husband and say ‘listen to this… how amazing is that?!’ I learn my favourite passages from books and poems and recite them by heart. I collect different cover versions of my favourite book . I don’t know if any of these count as random/funny/bizarre?!
If you’re a blogger, writer or book lover and you’d like to take part in Space on the Bookshelves, get in touch! You can email me at amy(Replace this parenthesis with the @ sign)tenpennydreams.com.
Image credit: Karl Bratby