Gosh this was so hard this week. My favourite book I read last week was one I read to review for Novelicious (which is returning to the internets in full force very shortly) and my rules dictate that I can’t make that my book of the week here as well. My second favourite book of last week was the second Corinna Chapman book – and my rules dictate that I can’t pick that because I picked that series last week. So after that it’s not so much Book of the Week as Book I Quite Liked of the Week. And that’s not really in the spirit of the thing. I was prepared to cheat if I managed to finish one of the books I had on the go on Monday morning, but I didn’t so I couldn’t justify that either.
So what I’ve decided to do is write about Judith Teaches by Mabel Esther Allen – which I read last week and which interests me on a few levels. Judith Teaches was part of a series of career books for girls published by Bodley Head in the 50s. Various different authors wrote the books which each feature a different career suitable for young ladies to do before they got married (and had to give up working to look after their husbands). Other titles in the series cover jobs like floristry, farming and modelling as well as some becoming a doctor or being a veterinary student.
Judith Teaches covers the first year of the teaching of Judith and her friend Bronwen who get jobs at a secondary modern school straight out of training college. They have a friend who is already teaching at the same school who they share a flat with, and although the book mostly focuses on Judith you hear about the other girls lives as well. The three are clearly Nice Well Brought Up Grammar School/Boarding School girls who have a bit of a culture shock with the pupils at their new school (dirty! desperate to leave school to go work in the factory! not interested in reading! can’t spell!) and some of these sections feel very of their time. But it does cover the potential ups and downs of teaching in a way that would have given the school girls that it was aimed at a realistic look at what they might be letting themselves in for – not all the children will be clever, not all the other teachers will be friendly, it will be stressful and tiring and you won’t be able to please everyone – in a way that you don’t get in boarding school books (which as regular readers will know Mabel Esther Allen also wrote along with my beloved Drina books).
I don’t think I knowingly read a career book as a child – unless Shirley Flight, Air Hostess counts – as the only ones I ever remember seeing were about nursing and that only interested me (as a weekend job, while being a teacher during the week) for a few days when I was about 6, so I’m not sure how representative this is of the genre, but Judith Teaches gave me several interested hours of reading – and a few wry smiles. It also made me realise how far the world has come for women in 50 years. After all, no one’s going to expect me to give up my job if I get married and I don’t think anyone would think I’m over the hill yet. There’s still a long way to go – but I like to hope that my sort-of-nieces who are at primary school today won’t need a book to tell them that they could be a doctor if they wanted to.
Anyway, Judith Teaches has just been republished by Girls Gone By if you’re geeky like me and want to have a peruse for yourself.