Mica Paris

7th December 2007 at 00:00
A stern warning from her form teacher helped the singer and television presenter to focus.The best school I went to was John Stainer Community Primary School in Brockley. I must have been nine when Mrs Dewar became my form teacher. She was amazing. She would tell me exactly what my good and bad points were. She gave me encouragement.

She told me that I could be anything that I wanted to be. She would say: "Mica, you have to focus because you know you get very distracted." She was firm with me and I needed that.

I was never naughty at school, I just lacked concentration sometimes. I did not get expelled, but I was once suspended because a girl hit me and I battered her, basically because I wasn't having it. That was the only time I got into trouble at school.

Mrs Dewar took most of my lessons. She was about 47 to 50 years old, quite short, with short hair. She would wear pleated tartan skirts, which is why I am sure she was Scottish. She dressed conservatively; very neat and tidy. I also remember her bow legs.

Although she was stern, we knew it was coming from a loving place and she really cared about us. I remember on one occasion I was talking in class and got carried away with a conversation, she took me to one side and said: "Mica you can be whatever you want to be, but if you keep being distracted and not paying attention, you're not going to fulfil your potential." Those words stayed with me.

You get some people that have a way of telling you something and it really does affect you. Many people can say certain things and it doesn't mean anything, but the way Mrs Dewar put it to me was so convincing, that I took note. If I get on with you, I'm going to give you my best work. I try to tell my daughter not to be like that, but she's just like me.

I think everyone responds to encouragement and you can tell when a teacher is not interested in you. This is what is happening in a lot of the schools today. The children feel that there is no interest and they rebel because they want attention.

I didn't feel there was the same interest from some of the other teachers I had and that meant I did not feel engaged. There were teachers that did not necessarily say anything bad, but you just felt they did not care in the same way as Mrs Dewar did.

As a black girl growing up in a south London school, I felt that most of the teachers didn't expect you to get anywhere and their attitude was: "Why bother even trying?" That's why Mrs Dewar was so special, because she definitely thought I had a future.

Her biggest contribution was her stern advice and explaining to me the consequences of being focused. She wasn't just telling me off, she was being constructive and letting me know how I would end up if I continued behaving in a certain way. Her advice helped me get through.

My grandparents told me how to behave, to be conscious of everything I do, and that everything I did had a consequence. Then I had Mrs Dewar saying the same thing.

I was really sad when I left my primary school because I felt my secondary school wasn't as supportive. I left school at 16 and got my first record deal at 17

Mica Paris is co-host of What Not To Wear on BBC1 and has just written her first book, Every Woman is Beautiful, which was published by Simon Schuster. She was talking to Sheryl Simms.

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