Teacher, Teacher! by Jack Sheffield
I'm continuing the theme of embracing the dark months of January and having finished the rather bloodthirsty Oliver Twist felt like reading something that would make me laugh. I can't tell you how much this has helped my mood. I'm leaning into January as a month of rest and recovery from the Christmas season, which I love, but which can leave one feeling depleted. I haven't written any life goals, or resolutions, or even started any kind of diet/healthy-eating/exercise regime. In fact, when I think of a fresh start, it is usually in September. Which brings me rather nicely to my next book.
I first mentioned this book on a book chat post all about going back to school, but not having read this for a couple of years, decided to read it again. Would it still make me chuckle? Let's find out shall we.
It's 1977 and Jack Sheffield arrives at a small village primary school in North Yorkshire. Little does he imagine what the first year will hold in store as he has to grapple with"
Ruby, the 20 stone caretaker with an acute spelling problem
Vera, the school secretary who worships Margaret Thatcher
Ping, the little Vietnamese refugee who becomes the school's best read and poet
Deke Ramsbotttom, a singing cowboy, father of Wayne, Shane and Clint
and many others, including a groundsman who grows giant carrots, a barmaid parent who requests sex lessons and a 5 year old boy is colourful in the extreme. And then there's bright, beautiful Beth Henderson, a deputy head who is irresistibly attractive to the young headmaster.
A couple of quick notes to begin with. This is the very first in the Teacher series by Jack Sheffield and he has written a number of books. In the last few years, he has written a few prequel novels to the series. But please start with this first. Also, these books tend to be found in the fiction section, not autobiography as they are based on Jack Sheffield's life, but are not fact.
Having cleared all that up, these books are wonderfully funny. Set close to where I now live, I recognise a lot of the scenery and glorious landscape. But it is the village, it's inhabitants and the children at the school that are truly the heart of the book. Each story had me laughing out loud, especially where it concerns Heathcliff Earnshaw, the 5 year old from Barnsley with the colourful language. The story with the 3 Little Pigs had me howling when Heathcliff expresses his views on the Big Bad Wolf.
For me, the novel felt very nostalgic. Sheffield touches on the hit songs of the era, the political situation, and what people were eating and watching on the TV. Shops long gone are mentioned. And the school, and its activities are very much as I remembered as a child, especially the school dinners. These were amazing, and eaten as a group of 8, with a teacher and helper serving the food and water available in large, silver jugs.
The inhabitants of the village are brilliant, each with a story to tell. And the stories about the children are told with joy. Jack Sheffield's passion for teaching truly shines. If there was a feel for the novel, it would be warmth. Reading this is like being bundled up in a warm blanket, it leaves you feeling all calm and happy.
I've truly loved reading this book again. I drove my husband a bit crackers suddenly bursting out laughing whilst I was reading the book, as the stories truly tickle me. And so, I would strongly recommend this to anyone who would like a good giggle, and who perhaps went to school in the late 1970s. There is lots to enjoy right here.