Dear Miss Evans* was brought back from retirement or so we were told and she'd come into school looking like Enid Sharples from the Coronation Street of my childhood complete with charcoal grey hair and hairnet. She was quite small as I remember, kind but stern and could keep a class of lively eleven and twelve year olds totally absorbed and silent. She taught me how to write letters with all the correct endings, Yours sincerely, Yours faithfully... something I've never ever forgotten.
That first year we read poems galore, Keat's Ode to Autumn with its magnificent first line Seasons of mists and mellow fruitfulness.. Blake's Tyger who's eyes drew me in and disturbed my dreams, Auden's Night Train, bringing its "letters for the rich and letters for the poor". She inspired us working class kids to compile our own anthologies, collecting poems we found in the school or public library or in dusty volumes we found in our attics, in newspapers and in magazines. We copied them out in our very best handwriting and decorated each page, with the felt tip pens we carried around in our pencil cases. Mine was orange, the pencil case that is, the anthology - a school exercise book, was covered by me with a sheet of wallpaper left over from Dad's decorating. I was especially proud of the "mitred corners" a technique I'd learnt from seeing my mother make curtains.
Miss Evans also encouraged our own creativity and every week we'd write a poem or a story for homework.
This early effort from me (below) got a Good! in my composition book and Miss Evans read it out but kept my identity secret. That was her way of doing things. She wanted to encourage us but not make us susceptible to bullying. No one ever knew who had top marks and who came at the bottom. She was a true egalitarian.
Softly, silently drifting in the air
covering branches which once were bare.
Snowflakes all of which have a likeness,
Cover the earth with a dazzling brightness.
Morning is here, the children arise,
Eager faces and delight in their eyes.
On with their scarves and their boots and their macs
Soon great big snowmen spring up with black hats.
© Susan Miller 1971
(Susan Jane Sims)
If you had someone who inspired you to write please post a comment. I'd love to hear your stories.
* Miss Evans is not the teacher's real name.