Open letter to my GCSE History teacher

Dear Mrs Morrison (my GCSE History teacher),

I don’t know if you remember me, Sophie, but I just wanted to write you this little letter of recognition and of appreciation.

In September it will be 27 years since I first walked into your History class at secondary school. I was 13 years old and I didn’t think I liked History as I’d spent the first two years at secondary school being bored by it.

But suddenly it was different.

Suddenly I couldn’t wait for History lessons. I soaked up every word you said, and couldn’t get enough of it. (It helped that we were doing a period that interested me – 20th century European history.) I was delighted when a year later I discovered you would be teaching our GCSE course, which was also on the same period.

You knew how to interest my teen self. You pushed me to want to know more. I will never forget rushing home from school after another fascinating lesson (this one on the Cuban Missile Crisis) and asking my mum “but weren’t you TERRIFIED of a nuclear war?!?”.

You made everything so real. I felt the pain of the Jews in Hitler’s “Final Solution” as if they were people I actually knew. I wanted to shake the people of 1930s Europe as you repeated to us time and time again, “when people are poor and hungry they turn to political extremism”.

I spent hours trying to work out how the Cold War could have been avoided.

All this came from you. From your passion for teaching. From your love of your subject. From the ease with which you shared this information with us.

Teens at secondary school in the 90s: l Happy you, Happy them. Put YOUR oxygen mask on first.

Me with a friend during GCSEs at school.

Despite my first love always being languages (French in particular), you made me think that maybe an A level in History might be possible, and you changed that course of my life a little bit.

I’d always said that I would do French, German and English A levels before going off to study French and something else at university. Then I realised, because of the passion you had ignited in me for history, I couldn’t NOT take History for A level, and I dropped German. Much to the disgust of the German teachers and our Head of Sixth Form.

The day I found out you would not be my History teacher for A level was a very sad day. The History teachers that I did have for A level, whilst being good, were just not the same.

If you are still teaching, then you have some lucky pupils out there – I’d love to come back and sit through one (lots) of your classes again.

Why am I sharing all this here on my blog, where you may not see it, and now, over 25 years later?

Two reasons.

  1. Now I am an adult, I have teacher friends who work themselves crazily hard and get little thanks for it. I have also worked as a teacher myself, and there is nothing more satisfying than getting positive feedback. Also if you’re still teaching I’m guessing you’ll need all the encouragement you can get to enjoy the job these days, with the paperwork and other obstacles that are thrown in your path. So I wanted to say thank you and to encourage you to continue despite the UK government doing its best to make all teachers want to throw in the towel.
  2. Maybe, just maybe, there are other teachers reading this. Teachers who are feeling disheartened, disenchanted and generally fed up of the hoops they have to jump through these days, the long hours and the general lack of appreciation for their excellent profession. This is for you too. What you do does make a difference.

Thank you, from the bottom of my heart, for planting in me the love of a subject that still fascinates me over a quarter of a decade later.

Thank you for making those lesson times at school such a fun, interesting time.

Thank you for staying passionate to your subject, despite no doubt teaching the same stuff over and over. It never felt old or repeated when you shared it with us.

Warmest regards,
Sophie (from your 3rd-5th Form History classes 1989 – 1992)

An open letter to my GCSE History teacher: l Happy you, Happy them. Put YOUR oxygen mask on first.


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