Teachers - and how they influence our lives. Part 3. Miss Jones.
Vive la France!
Je m'appelle Pierre!
I learned a little bit of French at Primary school. How to say my name, how to ask directions to the Post office, you know the kind of thing I mean. Emergency phrases. It wasn't until I went to Grammar School, however, that I first realised what a romantic language it could be. That was all thanks to Miss Jones...oops, of course I mean Madamoiselle Jones!
It was my good fortune that Miss Jones taught both French and English, and that I was assigned to her classes for both. Naive as I was at 12, unfamiliar with matters of the heart and oblivious to laws of attraction, I was head over heels in LOVE with Miss Jones!
Ok, so she may not have been as glamorous as the girl in the picture, but she was very beautiful, she dressed beautifully, and when she spoke in French? Ooooh-la-la! I still get goose-bumps thinking about it!
What I particularly liked about her was that she called me Pierre. The tendency in Grammar school was to call all the pupils by their Surnames. "Smith? Sit down at once!" "Thompson, get your hair cut!" "Kennedy, stop drawing love hearts all over your French book!" But Miss Jones only ever used surnames when she was really angry, and as I never gave her any cause to be angry, I was always Pierre.
"Bonjour Pierre. Comment ca vas?"
"Tres bien, merci, mademoiselle Jones." I would have loved to add, "Je t'adore!" but I guess it never seemed appropriate. Besides, I was so attentive during her classes that I was quite sure she knew I adored her.
I remember watching a movie around that time, concerning a female teacher having an unethical relationship with one of her students. I can't remember the name of it now, but it actually did more to put me off the idea than to turn me on to it. There was no sex in the movie, (Good God, my parents weren't THAT liberal!) but the first time the teacher kissed the pupil, she stuck her tongue into his mouth, and as a 12 year old, my reaction was "Eeuuuwwww! That's gross!" It all ended up very nasty too. The boy got beaten up by the teacher's adult boyfriend, and the teacher eventually lost her job over the affair. I guess it was mostly the thought of Miss Jones losing her job that prevented me from making a move on her!! (As if I would!)
When it came to English classes, our teacher/pupil bond was even stronger. Miss Jones loved drama, and knowing that I had recently played the role of 'Kurt' in the Northern Ireland premiere of "The Sound of Music" in the Grand Opera House, she played upon the fact that I liked to perform. If she needed someone to read in class, she knew she could rely on me to set the ball rolling.
"I'm Kurt. I'm eleven....almost!"
The budding thespian.
We were studying George Bernard Shaw's "Pygmalion" at the time, and I knew the story well, as my father had recently played Colonel Pickering in a production of "My Fair Lady", which was of course closely based upon the Shaw play.
There were only 4 girls in our class, none of whom one would describe as remotely out-going, and none of whom liked to be focused upon in the classroom. So it was that Miss Jones decided that, for our class read-through, I should accept the challenging role of Eliza Doolittle. Some of my mates thought it was a bit sissy, but I loved the idea, and enetered into it whole-heartedly. It was a chance to show that I had the potential to be a great actor...erm....actress... whatever!
What I loved most of all was that the more I absorbed myself in the character and the dramatic monologues, the more Miss Jones laughed and giggled at the front of the classroom. It was a lesson I quickly took on board. If you were prepared to have a laugh at your own expense, before long, others would be laughing with you. Not at you, but with you. As my school years flew past, and I proved to be less than academically brilliant, I always managed to stay sweet with my teachers by being a bit of a clown, and a kind of a likeable rogue. And it was all thanks to Miss Jones.
The only down side to the "Pygmalion" incident was that during one of my monologues, the PE teacher, who was also my rugby coach, walked into the classroom. He roared with laughter at my female impersonation, and carried his mirth to the extreme of producing a ballet tutu for me to wear at the next rugby training session! Ooooh, the embarrassment.
But I digress!
Miss Jones gets the big thumbs up from me in the teaching stakes, not only because I was very obviously in love with her, but also because she had the good manners to treat every child as an individual, and to take an interest in them as young people, not just as nameless students. She fostered my interest in theatre, and showed me a way to survive the rigours of school days by relying on wit and imagination. I have so much to thank her for, not least that she broke the mould and called me by my first name. Pierre!!