In 1968, Susan Elkin was 21 and straight out of a very sheltered teacher training college when she was sent to teach in a challenging inner London boy’s secondary school. Her skirts were short, her experience nil and her naivety boundless. The Deptford boys she had 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 found 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 30 years. For over 25 years she has 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 2006. Susan has written more than 50 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 40 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.”