My Best Teacher - Dr Tanya Byron

5th June 2009 at 01:00
The psychologist had a little crush on her glamorous English teacher

Kay Moore was this very nice, glamorous woman and she had beautiful silky hair in a bob that she would put up in combs. I was upset she wasn't my A-level English teacher, but she was my O-level teacher, and when she read she read with such passion for the text that I used to feel transported, like a baby listening to a lullaby.

I went to North London Collegiate School for Girls. It was a great school, but it was very academic and I didn't really enjoy the pressure. At one parents' evening my parents were told I would never be a high flier. You got tonnes and tonnes of homework and it was not great for me to learn in that environment. These very academic schools can work for some kids, but they can work against others. I found the pressure quite hard; I was quite rebellious.

In my day, if you got in to Oxbridge you were brought on to the platform at the front of the hall in assembly, but us jokers - I went to York - sat there in the stupid row. It was the elitism I didn't like, although my rebellion wasn't in a delinquent way, it was more of a passive refusal to work.

I was a nightmare for my parents. My sister went to Oxford and was able to learn stuff and do well in tests, and I was jealous of that, but I always wanted to be out with my friends.

As you get older you start to reflect back on things and see them slightly differently. Maybe the school was right to make me face up to the fact that I was a bit lazy, and I can't dismiss the school's role in what I've done since.

It was because of Mrs Moore that I really enjoyed English. When I write my columns and books I think of her because she gave me the confidence to write.

Once we were reading A Midsummer Night's Dream. I was reading the part of Helena and I remember Mrs Moore warmly congratulating me on my intonation and how I thought about the words. I was so proud. It was that moment when you look at your teacher and think "I just love you".

She was quite strict, but that was good as well. Her teaching methods were really engaging: it was very much about bringing the subject alive and you could really feel her love for it. She was very encouraging for those of us who maybe needed a few boundaries.

She was extremely glamorous, always wore beautiful dresses and had beautifully manicured nails. Her hair was always beautiful and she used to wear lovely make-up. I wanted to be like her when I grew up.

I write a column in The Times and a young girl wrote to me and said she had a crush on her teacher. I said not to worry about it because it was normal to have crushes on people of both genders, and I said I actually once had a crush on a teacher and her name was Mrs Moore. It was a crush in an idealising sort of way. She was up there with David Cassidy and Donny Osmond as the kind of people you thought were really cool.

Shortly afterwards I got a card through the post and I recognised her handwriting - she had the most gorgeous handwriting - and my heart started racing. She thanked me and said she had been following my progress. I felt I was back in the classroom, being told I read beautifully.

I wrote back and I remember thinking I had to use a really nice pen. I still called her Mrs Moore and when she replied she said: "Please call me Kay," but I said: "I'm afraid you will always be Mrs Moore." We moved a couple of years ago and I lost her number and address but I'd love to get back in touch. It would be nice to meet up

  • Dr Tanya Byron is a psychologist and TV presenter, best known for `The House of Tiny Tearaways'. She is chancellor of Edge Hill University. She was talking to Nick Morrison.

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