Wednesday 30 January 2013

Dedicated to Mrs Tyler

Mrs Tyler was my year 7 Maths teacher. She was head of Maths, I think, at my all-girls public school, which can't have been an easy job, even in the 90s.

I was definitely an annoying child. I'd been very good at Maths for the first three years of primary school; I remember, in Y3, being sat with two other students in a separate corner of the classroom and asked to complete some work from a new book because we'd finished all the other stuff. Unfortunately, that was the height of my Maths career. It never got any better than that (there are some murky, unpleasant memories about my Y3 teacher being quite unkind to me and I wonder if that had anything to do with it) and by the time I started senior school, I was no better than anyone else.

This was a fact Mrs Tyler spotted almost immediately. I have a solid memory of a lesson with her in my head. I remember the classroom (it was the same one we had for a tutor base in Y8) and where I was sat (in the middle row, in the middle). I was doodling in my spiral bound notebook. We all had them back then. We used to guard them impossibly closely, as though they contained the Enigma code, and write things to look mysterious; in fact their primary function was to play endless rounds of the imaginatively named "boxes", where one connects the dots to create boxes.

In this particular lesson, I was doodling away in my notebook, undoubtedly writing something terribly important like the true story of the JFK assassination, when I was unceremoniously called out by Mrs Tyler, who made me stand up, face a'flame, and throw my precious notebook into the (almost empty, save for pencil sharpenings) bin. The clique tutted and my friends tried to look sympathetic but I'm fairly sure they had warned me.

I did not take this well. I complained, loudly, to my friend, "I won't need Maths, anyway. I'm going to be a famous writer, and when I am, I'm going to dedicate my first book to Mrs Tyler, for making my life so awful in Year 7."

Mrs Tyler unfortunately heard this lofty claim. I can still remember the look of tight fury on her face. She pointed to the corner. "SALLY! GO AND STAND IN THE CORNER!" she shouted. It was probably the most shameful moment of my school career at that point; luckily I got into some very shameful scrapes later on during my formal education so it isn't the worst ever. But it was the only time I, or anybody else, was made to stand in a corner.

Mrs Tyler did not teach me again after Y7. She concerned herself with top sets and I was put in set 3 of 4, where I remained until about this time of year in Y11, when an astonishing mock grade enabled me to move up, thus entering higher tier and achieving the A I hold in Maths. I most definitely needed it, or I wouldn't be teaching. When we got into the sixth form, Mrs Tyler taught the A-level Maths crowd, who adored her - any student enthusiastic about Maths adored her, and it was mutual. She was an awesome teacher. But then she got sick. She got cancer. And she planned her funeral, and she died.

Well. Now it turns out that a portion of my prophetic words have come true, although I'm not exactly famous. This is my first book. It is finally published (and my name is first on the cover, in spite of the picture on that link). I am prouder of it than anything I have achieved in my working life to date. They didn't ask me for a dedication - it's not really that sort of book. However, I must dedicate this, in total fairness, to the memory of my Y7 Maths teacher, Mrs Tyler. She didn't make my life hell, it was only that one day, and I know she'll never know - she was an atheist, and stubborn, so I presume her spirit would refuse to stick around on the basis that it didn't believe in itself, should such a thing have occurred. But, a promise is a promise.

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