Mrs Hales asked for staff to create a simple poster thanking an inspirational teacher from our past. However, this got me thinking. I am sure that if you asked most teachers why they are in the profession it is usually down to one teacher who had a particularly deep impact upon them. It is certainly several decades too late, but I owe a huge debt of gratitude to Mrs Muggeridge.
Those of a certain vintage will understand when I say that she looked like she would have been comfortable at Greenham Common. For those not old enough to understand the reference: children named after herbs; a long floral and flowing wardrobe; large hooped earrings; waste-length hair, sometimes held up with an elaborate arrangement of pins and wooden sticks and occasionally held back by bandanas. And the allusion extends to her feisty attitude and passion. I do know that she was an intensely political person and had strong views on ‘Thatcher’s Britain.’
The passion and energy she exuded extended to the classroom and to her students. It was infectious too. I don’t know if you will be surprised or not by this revelation but I was not a straightforward student and I certainly found ways to entertain my classmates and detract from the lesson at hand!
Somehow, it was impossible to ruffle her and she found ways of engaging and clawing back my attention. Little by little I found myself listening to her and responding to her marking. At first, it was all just corrections but then one day I had returned to me a piece with one massive red tick and the word ‘YES!!’ written next to it. (I think we can forgive the double exclamation mark!) She told the whole class that I had a really good thought on Pip’s character and would I share it with the class. That one intervention had a profound effect on me and it is not hyperbole to say it changed the course of my relationship with education.
It is no surprise then, that English was my highest O Level grade and equally unsurprising that I opted for English at A Level. The step up was challenging and all the old doubts and insecurities resurfaced. I don’t know how but somehow she picked up on this and sat me down to find out what the issue was. There was a feeling of inferiority to my peers, they all seemed far more knowledgeable about the literature.
Her response was to give me a copy of Marquez’ ‘Chronicle of a Death Foretold’. Every week thereafter she would slip another South American work in my bag. It didn’t help me in class until one day something came up that reminded her of Marquez and, Steve, you have been reading around his work. Suddenly I was the class expert. I am fairly certain now that she had contrived the whole situation. Brilliant.
It wasn’t just in the classroom that she made her mark. I think she was on pretty thin ice even back then but she thought nothing of arranging impromptu theatre trips to Brighton and even to London. She would drive those of us who couldn’t get down to the station (battered 2CV held together by political and CND bumper stickers) give us 5p, yes 5p, for the phone, to inform our parents and pay for our tickets confident that we would pay her back – eventually.
On the way she would explain plots and tell us why it was important that we saw the show and all of this with infectious enthusiasm bordering on the manic. Afterwards, somehow, she was able to blag her way backstage and take us to see the stars; Timothy Dalton, Steven Berkoff, Glenda Jackson and Vanessa Redgrave, twice, were all victims of a ‘Muggeridge mugging’.
If there is any doubting her impact, of the nine of us who were in her A Level group: one is now a lyricist, combining her writing and musical talents; one became an in-house script writer at the BBC and is now a producer; one is an award winning short story writer and lecturer in creative writing at a London university and one is a Professor of Literature at a university in the south of England. She has written several books on Gothic in film. Two of us are enjoying careers in education and both of us have held the position of Head of English at some point in them. I have no doubt that all of us were set upon these paths due to the influence of Mrs Muggeridge: thank you, Mrs Muggeridge.
Mrs Muggeridge - International Thank a Teacher Day
Steve Lott, Director of Studies