I very nearly taught middle-class children in Surrey. It was generally perceived that the East End was not an easy option,and I followed advice,applied and was accepted by Surrey. However, I had a friend who was having difficulty in finding a position. She said she was applying to East Ham, and I offered to keep her company.
How glad I am now that I went with her to East Ham Town Hall! Because I accepted an offer of a job in a Secondary school in East Ham, I joined East Ham Dramatic Society and met George,a Dagenham boy,and married him,and we were happy together for 40 years. And because I taught in that East Ham School,I learnt to appreciate the honesty and courage and cheerfulness of children who, in some cases,were making their way in a world which was not always kind to them.
I could tell many stories about those early classes. We are talking about the late 1940s here. I knew children who were hungry, children who were dirty, children who were often snuffly and poorly clothed. But they were so responsive! And above all,they were HONEST.
This is an example of a child who did not intend to be put down by her 'betters'.
It was lunchtime. School dinnertime. The usual smell of gravy and stale greens.
The pupil I am talking of(let's call her Flo) was tucking in,not in a ladylike way( she wasn't a lady), but wholeheartedly. Food was being shovelled into her mouth at a rate of knots. 'Seconds' might be available,so speed was essential.
One of the duty teachers stood beside her, staring pointedly at the admittedly not very pretty scene. She said nothing, just stared coldly and disapprovingly as Flo rapidly cleared every scrap of her food into an open mouth. Flo could feel her critical gaze, but gave no hint of what was to come.
She slowly, carefully licked every drop of gravy from her knife and fork,and arranged them on her empty plate. The teacher continued to stare in disgust.
Flo sat back in her chair, looked directly into the eyes of her critic, and spoke.
" 'Ad yer eyeful?"
Now you know why I really enjoyed teaching East End children!