TV talent show teacher gets pupils' blessing to take time out to try for singing career.Most teachers have to ask pupils to get their pens and books out at the start of the day. But when Beverley Trotman walked into her classroom she was greeted with open books and outstretched pens.
"They all wanted my autograph," she said. "I said to them, 'I've written in your books so many times - I've written letters home'. But they still wanted my autograph."
Mrs Trotman, a Year 6 teacher at Icknield Primary in Luton, has spent this term being watched by millions of viewers, as one of the contestants singing on the ITV talent show X Factor.
She has since been voted out, in what many X Factor fans consider an outrage against common sense. "I hoped to have been there longer," she said. "But I sang some great songs. I did my best every single week. It was a good run. It was a really, really good run." And she has conquered her fear of standing in front of the notoriously plain-speaking X Factor judges. "You have to have self-belief to be a primary teacher anyway," she said. "I was always singing, always singing at school. I'm just a random singer."
For example, she would regularly break into song in lessons. And if a pupil approached her in the playground, she would sing in reply: "What do you nee-eed?"
But the 37-year-old's teaching experience also served a more practical purpose. The contestants' weekly schedule required that they choose a song for the following week on Saturday night, and learn the tune by Sunday and the lyrics by Monday.
"There's no way as a teacher that you could go in front of a class and not be planned and ready," Mrs Trotman said. "And X Factor isn't just singing. You're looking at different cameras for different lines, walking right, left, right. There's so much to think about. That kind of discipline, brainwork, came from teaching."
Ms Trotman was originally a teaching assistant at Icknield. But having studied for a degree part-time, she eventually enrolled in the graduate teacher programme.
"I trained as a teacher while still being a cook, cleaner and mother," she said. "Looking back, I don't know how I did it.
"It did take a great level of determination. But once I had started, I had to finish."
In this spirit, Mrs Trotman, mother of Tianna, 12, and 10-year-old Luke, has taken the rest of the year off from teaching to see how far she can pursue her singing. But she intends to return to teaching eventually. And she hopes to inspire her pupils, even at a distance.
"I used to take hymn practice, and pupils always said I should go for X Factor," she said. "So I haven't just done it for myself. I've done it for them as well.
"No matter how scary something is, if you really want it, you should go for it. A couple of girls want to go for X Factor themselves now. So I'm really pleased if I can be even a slight inspiration to them."
And, she adds, her celebrity standing has enhanced her classroom status. When she returned to Icknield for a visit, the more daring pupils greeted her with cries of "it's Beverley".
"I don't know if I'm that cool," she said. "But that's what they say. They say, 'Mrs Trotman's actually got a name'. I would like to be a cool teacher."
Dolly Parton, page 13.