Andy Seed’s Three Books of humourous memoirs of teaching in Yorkshire – “All Teachers Great and Small”, “All Teachers Wise and Wonderful” and “All Teachers Bright and beautiful”

Andy Seed and three books of School Humour – “All Teachers Great and Small”, “All Teachers Wise and Wonderful” and “All Teachers Bright and Beautiful”

One of the delights of visiting a library, especially one in a lovely location that you cannot often get to, is discovering new authors that it is possible to try for free. In Orkney library I discovered Andy Seed’s second book, All Teachers Wise and Wonderful” which was an absolute joy. As you may guess from the title, it is set in the Yorkshire Dales, where a certain real-life vet set his novels of Yorkshire farmers and characters. In this set of three books, Andy recounts his experiences of being a young teacher – Memoirs of Lessons and Life in the Yorkshire Dales. They are full of genuine humour, the minor dramas and excitement of everyday life in villages where one of the few institutions is a school. All three books each focus on the children in his class over three academic years. While each chapter is given the name of a child, they are amalgamation of children that Andy encountered during his career. The other element is Andy’s story of setting up home with his new wife Barbara in the beautiful places which are local to the school, with the huge distances from other houses, moves to temporary homes and the challenges of unique buildings with collapsible ceilings and infestations. They are also very strong on the local characters who inhabit the pub, work on houses and generally people the beautiful Dales. Other characters are the staff in the school, whose sense of humour, good ideas and experience Andy draws on. These are books to enjoy with realistic situations involving the stresses of teaching every day. From shortages of resources to the special days when things go anything but to plan, to the challenges of invading governors and student teachers, these are lively books which I found a great distraction.

I found a copy of the first book, “All Teachers Great and Small” in a Waterstones looking a bit lonely. It tells the story of how Andy gets his first teaching job in Cragthwaite School and encounters the head, Howard Raven, who has run the school for so long according to his dated and fearsome set of rules and expectations. The other staff have been there for a very long time and are soon able to help and support Andy when he seems overwhelmed. I found his wife Barbara particularly relatable, especially when she finds herself a bit lonely and without a job in a beautiful setting. With a class unused to day trips out of school, Andy finds it a steep challenge to visit an apparently safe site. These books are set pre 2000 when Andy was teaching, and perhaps there are surprising attitudes to the government rulings on curriculum and other aspects of school life. What always comes through is the often-unconscious humour provided by the wide variety of children, from the farming community children who would really prefer to be outside, through to the children from wealthier backgrounds.

The second book, which I read first, was just very funny as a new head at the school had swept away the archaic rules and atmosphere. The standout section for me came nearly at the end, when a sports day so nearly descends into anarchy. The writing here made me laugh out loud, reminding me of similar situations in real life. Not that Andy’s life outside school is without incident, with an increasing family to be concerned about.

The third book, “All Teachers Bright and Beautiful”, continues the same themes so well introduced in the first two books. An amazing voice is discovered at Christmas, a student teacher makes some classic mistakes, and a Parents’ Evening turns into a testing situation for most.

This is a series of books which I think is worth tracking down. I think it is definitely possible to begin with any one of them, though the first one is the best place to start. Enjoyable, funny and the sort of books to read at any time of the year, I thoroughly recommend them to fans of school memoirs, those who like books set in the Yorkshire Dales, and anyone in search of genuinely funny reads.