May She Rest In Peace

I can’t remember a sadder milestone for British schools than the first murder within a classroom of a serving teacher by a pupil.

In a climate where police reports suggest more than 1000 pupils have been caught with weapons over the past three years and many thousands more pupils have been expelled for assaulting teachers or teaching assistants, it is perhaps surprising that such a tragic event had not occurred sooner.
Nevertheless, the news that the Leeds teacher Ann Maguire was apparently killed by one of her own pupils in front of her class just doing her job has sent shockwaves through the whole education community as well as the wider community.

In the first hours after Mrs Maguire’s death, there were predictable calls from some quarters for tough security measures to be implemented in schools to crack down on pupil violence.

At the same time, Mrs Maguire’s record as a truly inspirational teacher quickly became apparent, making her senseless killing even more heart-rending. Here was a woman who had dedicated over 40 years of her life to teaching and, in some cases, had taught mothers and sons, fathers and daughters; generations of the same family.

Then something else began to happen on social networks with spontaneous and organised social network campaigns such as #topteachers springing up, encouraging others to celebrate and thank the inspirational teachers they were once motivated and helped by themselves.
Thousands seem to have responded to the call, remembering their own childhoods and the teachers who made a difference to them and adding their warm tributes to them on social media.

In these days when the teaching profession all too often is criticised rather than celebrated, this outpouring of reminiscence reminds us of how an excellent teacher can really change lives.

How much more fitting, it seems , for a teacher of the calibre of Mrs Maguire, clearly much-loved by pupils past and present, to have triggered this collective searching of our memories for the teachers who inspired us, rather than to trigger a rush for airport style security in our schools. May she rest in peace.

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