1968. Susan Elkin is just twenty-one-years-old when she is sent straight out from a sheltered teacher training college into the depths of a challenging inner London boys secondary school. Her skirts are short, her experience nil and her naivety boundless. The Deptford boys she has to deal with were often knowing, coarse and brash but also vulnerable and in desperate need of some decent teaching. Gradually – with the support of a bunch of eccentric, forthright but mostly caring colleagues – she finds ways of persuading some of the boys, some of the time, to sit down, calm down, trust her and do some work.
Please Miss, We’re Boys, a snapshot of the late 1960s and Deptford before the tower blocks moved in, is an amusing personal account of classrooms as they once were (but shouldn’t have been) as well as the colourful personalities who stalked the school, including the inimitable Geoff Miles.
Susan Elkin taught secondary English for over thirty years. For over twenty-five years she has also worked as a professional journalist and author, having written extensively for almost all the national dailies. She was also the education editor for The Stage from 2005 to 2016. Susan has written more than fifty books – mainly ‘how-to’ books for teachers and secondary English text books/study guides. In 2017, Susan moved back to her native South London where the book is set – in the same Borough (Lewisham) as the school she worked at – after more than forty years living elsewhere.
Susan says, “In these days of performance targets, league tables, the national curriculum and special measures I couldn’t get anyone to believe just what a dangerous free-for-all jungle I’d begun my career in. So, how to get all this across to people? Write a book, of course.”