The grammar school I went to when I was eleven was an all girl school with all female teachers, most of them spinsters.

There was a small group of teachers who had been at the school since it opened in the early 1930s. They had been teachers at the co-ed grammar (High Pavement) and had transferred to the Manning school when the girls moved into the new school.

In retrospect they must have been amongst the pioneers for female higher education and had probably had to fight quite hard for the rights to go to university. This is probably why they were  so tough with us if they thought we were not working hard enough.

They shared many of the same characteristics,enthusiasm for teaching, discipline tempered with fairness etc.  but each had her own idiosyncrasies. 

One wore severely tailored tweed suits, lisle stockings and plain lace-up shoes, but maybe a hint of her secret nature was shown when she indulged in her habit of sitting  on her desk rather than at it as the other teachers did. The desk was on a raised platform at the front of the class room and as she sat on the desk, with her feet firmly planted on the pupil’s desk immediately in front of her, there was a clear view of her silk lace edged bloomers atop the lisle stockings!

Another one had a booming voice and thundered out Latin declensions etc. as though the sheer volume of noise would imprint it on our memories. It was rather scary if that thunderous voice chastised you, so few were brave enough to risk it.

One had had a severe accident which had left her with one leg shorter than the other. Maybe this still gave her pain because she was very short tempered and if she was roused she would limp up and down in front of the class, stamp the short leg on the platform and then, if really roused, a hail of chalks and board rubbers would be thrown at the unfortunate girl who had caused the outburst. I don’t think her aim was very good because no one was ever injured!

The one who had the most influence on me was my house mistress. The school was divided into six houses and each house was divided into three parts and each part had its own mistress. We had one period a week for “house prep”. If we had any problems the house mistress dealt with it. (I suppose this would now be called pastoral care.)

Miss P was a “Miss Chips” and the fount of all knowledge. She had a very broad scope of knowledge and if I had issues on any subject she found a way of helping me to deal with it. She was also my English teacher and when we left school she left too. She had stayed on to see us through A levels. She is the only teacher I kept in touch with after I left school. At first I kept in touch because I thought, mistakenly, in my youthful arrogance that she would be lost without the teaching having devoted her life to it. 

I couldn’t have been more wrong. She taught at the WEA, learned to work a telephone switchboard and used that knowledge to do voluntary work for a charity.

I used to visit her sometimes when I was home on leave. She lived in a large old house which had probably been her family home, and drove a huge old Bentley.  She was very formal and would invite me from 10.00am-11.30am for morning coffee or 3.30 -5pm for afternoon tea!

When we moved back to Nottingham after I was married she came to tea with us. She was experimenting in finding out whether she could manage without her car. She was so thorough in her experiment that she adamantly refused to let JW drive her home!

I think she inspired me to grab every opportunity to learn, just for the joy of knowing. She kept her zest for life until she died aged 94 years.