The arrival of series four of The Crown has come at the perfect time. After a long, uncertain day, it’s great to sit back and enjoy an undemanding, two-dimensional reconstruction of the historical events that formed the backdrop to my teenage years.
The 1980s were a tricky time for a growing girl: brutal politics, casual sexism and the expectation that 40 minutes every morning with three hairbrushes, a powerful blow dryer and two mirrors was an essential part of any sensible person’s big-hair routine.
But, looking back through Netflix-tinted spectacles, it appears there was triptych of formidable women, who – whether we liked it or not – crept into our collective subconscious and shaped our understanding of what it is to be a woman in control of her own destiny.
What I need from you now is a frivolous leap of faith. This won’t suit all my readers, so if you’re a real historian, for example, a ferocious republican or someone whose gender politics are made of sterner stuff than mine, I suggest you look away now because you won’t like what’s coming next.
Are they gone? Right. OK, now it’s just us, imagine it’s possible to divide teaching personalities into three broad categories based on the semi-fictional characters constructed by the writers of The Crown: Her Majesty the Queen, Diana, Princess of Wales and Margaret Thatcher.
Quiz: Which character from The Crown are you?
Ever wondered which one you are? Then take my scientifically devised quiz below to find out. Honest answers only.
1. It’s freezing cold in your classroom. How do you cope?
a) Fortunately, I have a range of coats, cloaks, capes, jackets and wraps to suit every occasion. For ease of teaching, I’ll rely on a stylish fitted gilet over an Aztec-patterned shirt, and a velour headband to juzh it up a bit.
b) Thick hand-knitted socks, sturdy outdoor shoes, a cashmere twinset and a silk head square always keep me warm, even at the furthest end of a chilly field. I’m sure I’ll be able to deal with a couple of open windows and a stiff breeze.
c) Cold? I don’t experience cold. Cold is for the faint-hearted. I’ll stick to my A-line skirts and pussy-cat bows, thank you.
2. Your timetable has been changed without consultation and you’re not happy about it. How do you react?
a) By locking myself in the staff toilets and crying. Then, after a bitter telephone discussion with an indiscreet friend, I’ll emerge looking dazzling and carry on as if nothing has happened. Although if it ever comes up in conversation with a member of SLT, I may roll my gorgeous blue eyes extravagantly.
b) Gosh. Change is always difficult, and sometimes disconcerting. But one has a duty to do what is best for the wider community, even if it does not suit one’s personal tastes.
c) Fortunately, I’ve already prepared a far superior timetable of my own, and I will be sticking to that, regardless.
3. A difficult parent has come into school and angrily demands to see you. What is your response?
a) I’d sit down with them, look deeply into their eyes with my head to one side, and tell them in a low quivering voice that I understand their pain. I’ll listen attentively and nod. The following day, I’ll send them a handwritten letter thanking them for sharing their experience with me.
b) I’ll allow them to be shown into my lavishly furnished office and make them wait until I’ve finished signing an important-looking document. When I finally look up, they’ll have calmed right down and I’ll be able to conduct a civilised conversation with them.
c) In a deep voice, I will slowly reiterate my point again and again, and when they disagree, I will interject with emphasis on their title “Mister Biggins…I must insist…” They will be hypnotised into compliant silence.
4. If you could teach any subject you wanted, what would it be?
a) Dance. It’s the one discipline that allows students to express the full range of human emotions with every fibre of their being. It’s beautiful. And I get to wear a tutu.
b) British and Commonwealth history. We embody the legacy of what came before us, and it’s important we know the ways, customs and decisions of our forebears if we are to make wise decisions in the future.
c) Economics. Everyone needs to know the importance of thrifty financial management and prudent investment. Unless, of course, there’s an election-winning war in the offing – in which case, go mad.
5. Finally, what are your career goals?
a) I don’t think I’ll ever be headteacher. It’s been difficult. There were three people in this NPQH. But I’d like to be remembered as the middle leader of people’s hearts.
b) To fulfil my duty. To be wise and temperate. To serve.
c) In the words of St Francis of Assisi, where there is ignorance may we bring knowledge. Where there is error, may we bring corrections in green pen. Where there is unruliness, may we bring order. Where there is missed homework, may we bring detentions.
OK. Tot up your answers and see which white woman of privilege most matches your professional approach.
Mostly As: you are Diana, Princess of Wales: stylish, led by the heart, but with an astounding ability to connect and beguile. I recommend pastoral work, but advise a little voice coaching before you attempt assembly.
Mostly Bs: you are Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth: unruffled, sensible and determined. You will undoubtedly end up as the longstanding, much-respected CEO of a multi-academy trust that prides itself on traditional values.
Mostly Cs: You are Britain’s first woman prime minister, Margaret Thatcher: single-minded, dominant and outspoken. I see you in charge of some kind of secure educational establishment, which relies on harsh punitive measures and no rehabilitation.
Sarah Ledger is an English teacher and director of learning for Year 11 at William Howard School in Brampton, Cumbria. She has been teaching for 34 years