Book review: All Teachers Great and Small by Andy Seed

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‘Dear Mr Seed, I am sorry that are Jack was not at school yesterday. He put on such a groth spurt in the night that nun of his clowthes fitted im next morning so I had to take him to shops. Mrs R.’

This charming and inventive, if barely comprehensible, note sent by a parent to new teacher Andy Seed was just the start of his 25-year odyssey in the beautiful Yorkshire Dales.

Once Seed had got to grips with the strange tongue used on the ‘other side’ of the Pennines, he not only fell in love with teaching but with the whole package of village life.

Now retired but still spending his time travelling around schools and spreading the word about the joys of reading, Seed has decided to put down on paper his heart-warming and hilarious experiences in God’s Own Country.

All Teachers Great and Small, a charming and entertaining memoir, uses fictional names, apart from the author’s, but is based on real-life people and events.

Seed’s move to a remote village in the Dales with new wife Barbara brought with it an anticipation of breathtaking views and the gentle simplicity of the countryside.

The picturesque scenery did not disappoint but life as a primary school teacher proved to be anything but simple.

At Cragthwaite School, a fiercely traditional primary which the newly qualified Andy considered to be stuck in a 50s time warp, he discovered a classroom full of colourful characters whose capacity for misunderstanding was exceeded only by their enthusiasm and their ability to leave him incredulous.

Whilst bravely negotiating the vagaries of the local dialect and customs, he also set about finding a family home and naively and hilariously trying out new-fangled ideas in front of a cynical ‘old school’ headmaster.

His first classroom was a ‘mobile’ of the square grey box variety, propped up on concrete blocks and sagging in the middle, containing row upon row of well-worn text books dating back to the 1950s.

‘You’re very young’ were the key words when he was addressed by other members of staff and before long he was assigned the role of Design and Technology specialist, a job that no one else wanted.

Seed found teaching to be physically strenuous as well as mentally and emotionally draining but what made it so rewarding was the children.

From that first day when he looked out at 24 fresh, ruddy-red faces all weighing him up and letting him know who likes talking, who does the work and who’s boss, he never looked back.

Moving, funny and inspirational, All Teachers Great and Small is a lesson for us all that school days really are the best days of our lives.

(Headline, paperback, £7.99)