Katie Thistleton: Mr Jackson told us his travel stories

The Radio 1 and CBBC presenter remembers the teacher who nurtured her writing ambitions – and who was easily distracted from lessons

Katie Thistleton

Tes and BBC Teach have partnered to promote and host a special live lesson to mark World Mental Health Day. The lesson – which will take place at 2pm on Thursday 10 October – will focus on emotional wellbeing, resilience and growth mindset. It will also include tips for self-care.

Aimed at key stage 2 students, the lesson will be hosted by YoungMinds ambassador and host of BBC Radio 1's Life Hacks Katie Thistleton, who will be joined by psychologist Hazel Harrison. Here, Katie remembers her best teacher:

My primary-school teacher Mr McCann – he was the first teacher who said to me, “Oh, you’re really good at writing. You should be a writer.” 

I then wanted to do that – to be a writer – for ever. 

He said to me, “I want a signed copy of your first book,” and that always stuck with me. My mum reminded me of it but, by the time I did write a book, he’d left the school, and I didn’t know how to get hold of him. I hope he just knows. I like to think he does. 

Couldn't shut up

I didn’t want to be a radio presenter, really. I wanted to be a writer. But I was always talking, and wouldn’t shut up. One time, Mr McCann told me off. I remember being so annoyed at myself that he was the one who told me off. I really wanted to please him. But I just couldn’t shut up. 

My secondary school form tutor, Mr Jackson – he was my form tutor for the whole five years I was at Droylsden High School for Girls, in Manchester. He also had us for geography

The great thing about him was that we could very easily distract him from teaching, by asking him to tell us stories from his travelling years. Then we’d get to the end of the lesson, and he’d realise he hadn’t taught us anything: he’d just told us travelling stories. 

I remember he had a story – I can’t remember which country it happened in, but him and his friends, when he was a student, one of them got food poisoning, and was really ill, and kept having to go to the toilet wherever they were. That was one of his favourite stories to tell, obviously, because he told it several times. 

We thought: it’s OK for him to tell us travelling stories, because he’s a geography teacher. It’s kind of geography. 

Cynical realist

He really believed in me. He told me not to be swayed away from what I wanted to do. He was just really caring and passionate. He didn’t want life to get in the way of students doing what they were capable of. He would say things like, “Don’t let those dreams be taken away by what life’s like, by life being really difficult.” 

He was a realist – he could be quite cynical about the world in general. But he certainly believed we could go on to do what we wanted to do. 

There’s a part of me that still thinks, “Oh, Mr Jackson would have really wanted me to do well. Oh, I don’t want to let all those people down, who believed in me.” I think it does stay with me. 

He said he’s not surprised I became a kids’ TV presenter, because me and my friends were always making up silly sketches and acting them out. We did our own version of Big Brother. And my only detention was when we got the whiteboard out and put it in the middle of us and played Blind Date. Just messing around. 

I think we were sillier, because it was an all-girls’ school. There were no boys to impress, so we were just playing. 

Funeral for a Mars bar

One time, I dropped my Mars bar on the floor of the playground, and we had a funeral for it. I was just devastated that I’d dropped it. I remember coming in, all: “Mr Jackson, we had a funeral for a Mars bar.”

One day, I came into the lesson and wrote a poem on the board. Mr Jackson said, “Can you write it on a piece of paper, so I can keep it?” I still remember it today

Once there was a pigeon
Sitting on a stone.
The pigeon heard a ringing –
A ringing of the phone.

I’ve been back into my old school to give talks to pupils, and Mr Jackson was there. He still has that poem. 

I said to his students: “Can you distract Mr Jackson really easily, by asking him questions about his travelling?” And they said, “Yeah.” 

I said: “Do you know the one about the food poisoning?” And they said, “Yeah.”

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