As the school year begins, I find myself drawn to stocking up on thin grey V-neck sweaters and navy A-line skirts reminiscent of a school uniform. At this time, I also look back fondly on my past crushes on teachers. For nervous students in search of validation, inspiration, and praise, having a crush on a teacher is as normal as meat and drink. Despite the criticism it may receive from others, these feelings can be a therapeutic escape from the pressures of adolescence.
Although fruitful, these emotions can also be dangerous when taken advantage of. However, successful relationships with teachers provide a safe space for students to experience complex emotions and teach them important lessons. At the very least, these feelings can boost morale and drive academic progress.
Personally, I recall my past crushes in a similar fashion to recalling the monarchs of England. A primary teacher gifted me a hardbound notebook to write my poems, while an A-level English teacher made us feel like mature and responsible adults by sharing updates from her marriage guidance sessions. Ultimately, it was Miss M who arrived at our school in the nick of time.
Miss M was intelligent, witty, and kind, and I admired her proper and precise mannerisms. I had grown weary of prevailing eccentrics and found solace in her sharp wit and turns of phrase. She laughed at my jokes, asked me about my latest books, and frequently marked my work with a smiley face and a “Smashing!” or “Well done!” adorning the page.
There was a rhythm to my feelings toward her. It was acceptable for me to feel excruciated, but unthinkable for her to. While my home life was messy and unpredictable, with my mother’s new romance with an antiquarian bookseller and a loved one struggling with heroin addiction, Miss M’s class was a haven of order and stability.
Homework played a pivotal role in our relationship, with my essays being a jumble of intellectual yearnings and pleas for help, evidenced by Miss M’s frequent red ticks and confirmations that I was indeed a sensitive and talented student.
Years later, I met Miss M again and thanked her for her unwavering belief in me, backed up by a detailed checklist of our time together at school. She was just as lovely and measured as ever, spending our time together reflecting on her fondness for some of my classmates and my well-developed sense of irony. We split a bottle of wine and exchanged parting pleasantries, agreeing to keep in touch.
Two days later, a card arrived. It was Valentine’s Day. It was a lovely recognition of the power of our relationship, now matured into an adult friendship. My memoir, My Judy Garland Life, will be reissued in September.