A few days ago I chatted about why I include teacher characters in my books, and introduced you to Stanley and Elizabeth from 1915. Today, I’d like you to meet, if you haven’t already, one of my favourite teacher characters.
Who is my teacher character? Miss Bruff
What book does she appear in? Pearl Verses the World
Why is she there? When I started writing about a lonely girl, I knew she was very lonely at school. Setting a large part of the story at school necessitated a teacher, but as soon as I introduced Miss Bruff with ‘her singsong voice’ and her passion for poetry, I knew she would be a major character in Pearl’s story.
What role does she play? For much of the book Miss Bruff seems an antagonist, she wants Pearl (and the rest of the class) to write rhyming poetry. Pearl hates it. She thinks Miss Bruff just doesn’t get her, But, when Pearl has something terrible happen in her life, she realises Miss Bruff is a lot more understanding that she seemed. And Miss Bruff learns from Pearl, too.
What did I learn writing about her? Miss Bruff reminds me a lot of myself as a teacher. Too often I just assume that if I’m enthusiastic about something, then my students will be, too. I learnt to perhaps stop and view things from my pupils’ viewpoints, and to remember that if there are twenty five kids in the class, there will twenty five different experiences.
Favourite Miss Bruff moment? I don’t want to give too much away, in case you haven’t read the story, but I love that Miss Bruff comes to see, after hearing Pearl read her poem outside of school, that poetry doesn’t always have to rhyme.
It is easy to portray teachers as either really nice or really horrible. I hope that readers of Pearl Verses the World, and my other books, can see that teachers can grow and learn, too. My next post in this series will look at Miss Timms from Toppling.
Pearl Verses the World, illustrated by Heather Potter and published by Walker Books, is available from good bookstores. It is also published in the US by Candlewick Press, and in the UK,under the title Pearl, by Walker UK.