My 3 1/2 year old was officially given a place at Urmston pre-school recently. I think it’s still a nursery of sorts but it’s based at the school so it sounds more grown up to call it pre-school. She’s very excited and so are we. It’s the start of a wonderful journey though education which will set her up for the rest of her life. Hopefully she’ll learn much more than we can teach her by having excellent teachers who’ll inspire and enlighten her.
Last week, one such teacher was murdered while doing her job.
She was in her classroom, had gone in on her day off and was helping her pupils to pass their exams when her life was taken away. I knew her a little bit. Corpus Christi was the school I went to and Mrs Maguire taught me.
So this week I feel the need to use my blog to give her a small but fitting eulogy. It’s the least I can do.
When I initially heard the headline ‘A teacher has been stabbed to death by a pupil in Leeds’ I was instantly shocked. Then more details came; it had happened at Corpus Christi Catholic College, that was my old school. Surely it was no-one I knew – I’d left in 1996. It was. Anne Maguire – a teacher I did know.
She’d been there 40 years and due to retire in a few months. She taught my mum Spanish and was my uncle’s form teacher too. The connection wasn’t to stop there. About two years after I left school I started dating her stepson. I knew her family and had spent time in her house. What a surreal and tragic thing to happen to a lovely wife and mother.
The terrible news of Anne Maguire’s death brought back memories to me which had been filed away somewhere in my head. My school days felt like another world away. Though fairly quickly they started flooding back. I’m not naturally very bright and I’ve had to work hard to pass exams and get results. I was also distracted at school and didn’t do as well as I should have done. The hormones got in the way sometimes.
However, I went on to do A levels and a degree and then realised I didn’t want to stop being in the bubble of education so went onto do a post-graduate degree. I’d finally got the learning bug. And into alot of debt. It was teachers like Anne Maguire who tried to instill this hunger for learning from an early age – but sometimes immaturity isn’t conducive to learning.
The outpouring of praise and tributes she’s recieved is fitting – it’s sincere and justified. It comes from the heart, and no-where has more heart than the community in East Leeds – the generations of families who’ve been sprinkled by the Maguire magic dust. She was a teacher who believed that you had it in you – despite the insecurities of adolescence – even when you might not have known what ‘it’ was. She was an inspiration to many and had time for everyone. She never gave up on anyone and saw the best in people. Like any great teacher – she left an impression on you and invested everything she had in other peoples children.
Who could forget her charming Irish accent – which was friendly and welcoming. She could be harsh at times to those who dared to ‘backchat’ her – but was always fair. She inspired me to sing and join the choir for a bit – her lunchtime guitar-led choir lessons were actually pretty cool and a joy to be part of.
I’ll always remember back in around 1995 the tuck shop was broken into and some Marathons, Double Deckers and Opal Fruits were stolen..and probably some Monster Munch – pickled onion flavour obviously. The Dip Dabs were also in demand I think. Mrs McGuire was part of the team of teachers who interviewed some of my year group about it trying to find out who was responsible. I found myself in her classroom with a bunch of others too – even though I had nothing to do with the actual break in, I did partake in purchasing some ‘knock off’ sweets in the playground one day! Mrs Maguire wasn’t pleased. She gave us all good talking to and made sure we knew this was very serious and we shouldn’t have bought any cheap Chomps! I remember her style of disciplining us was just spot on – she was fair on us whilst putting the fear of God into us too. A detention I think. Lesson learnt.
I went back down to my old school this weekend to pay respects and leave a card. The gates to the school are now a huge shrine to her which is growing by the day. People walk up and down looking at the flowers, cards, school jumpers and other things that are left – a powerful visual reminder of the impact she had on people. It’s emotional to be there and see the words her pupils have wrote. Someone’s card read ‘She was an incredible woman who’ll be singing with the angels now’. I hope so. If anything good can come out of this needless death it’s that the world gets to know what a lovely lady and an amazing teacher she was.
And as Florence sets off into the big wide world of schooling I hope she encounters someone as fabulous and inspiring as Mrs Maguire was.