To Sir, With Love

Braithwaite, E.R. To Sir, With Love. New York: Jove Publishing, 1959.

Confession: whenever I hear the words “to sir with love” I do not think of Sidney Poitier. I do not think of LuLu. I don’t even think of Braithwaite. I think of MTV’s 1993 inauguration ball for President Clinton. Natalie Merchant sang ‘To Sir, With Love” accompanied by R.E.M.’s Michael Stipe. What this says of me, I’m not sure!

E.R. Braithwaite is in the company of a select few: teachers who make a difference. Leaders in education have no trouble touching the lives of one or two of their students. That happens all the time, but to change an entire class is no small feat. I think that’s why they make movies like “Dead Poet’s Society” and “Mr. Holland’s Opus.” Such teachers are an inspiration to the of world education. Braithwaite enters the world of teaching by default. As an out-of-work engineer who cannot get a job due to the color of his skin he is forced to apply for positions outside his area of expertise. A chance meeting with a stranger leads him to apply for a position with the Greenslade Secondary School in London’s ill reputed East End. There, Braithwaite meets children more callous and uncouth than any adult he’s ever encountered. They are defiant and daring, determined to run Braithwaite out of  school, just has they had done before. Only Braithwaite is not so easily cowed. And so begins the odyssey of E.R. Braithwaite and his remarkable story. He is able to turn thieves and would-be prostitutes into respectful, intelligent individuals.

Book Trivia: To Sir, With Love was made into a 1967 movie starring Sidney Poitier.

Author Fact: Braithwaite became a popular teacher by applying two fundamental philosophies to his teaching: treat the children with respect and relate everything they learn back to something they already are familiar with. Both tactics engage the children emotionally and intellectually.

BookLust Twist: From Book Lust in the chapter called “Teachers and Teaching Tales” (p 231).

Note: In the index of Book Lust Braithwaite is listed as Ricardo and not Edward Ricardo. Even though Braithwaite went by “Ricky” or “Ricardo” it would have been a show of respect to list his full name.

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