‘To Sir With Love’ by E. R. Braithwaite is an inspiring book which mainly deals with the behaviour of teenagers who are treading the path of being extreme rebels just because they have been exposed only to miserable situations and poor neighbourhood crammed with more of social rebels than civilised beings. The book also talks about racism, about student-teacher relationship and the truth of the age old conviction that if a teacher shows respect and love to the students, they reciprocate the same feelings in more than double the measure.
This autobiographical novel set in the East End of London and based on true events tell us of the experiences of E R Braithwaite, a British Guyana born engineer who after having served in RAF as aircrew and demobbed in 1945 ends up as a teacher in a school in the East of London. Inspite of being highly qualified and experienced he was rejected from all engineering jobs often on explicitly racial grounds. Eventually, as advised by a stranger he applies for a teaching post and is assigned in Greenslades School, a Secondary School in London’s East End about which he says ‘There is something rather old about this school, something rather frightening and challenging at the same time’. When he took up the job his students were just a bunch of barbaric savages, unclean in their appearance, indisciplined in their behaviour and with a hostile attitude. Gradually he tries to win over their minds with his stern, but wise and passionate dealings. He tries to wipe clear their minds of prejudices, over comes their initial hostility and teaches them the value of education, good manners and above all self respect. With sincerity and hard work he turns his class of unruly children into a class of dignified young men and women with class.
Braithwaite’s novel is a fascinating look at the effect a good teacher can have on their students. It is an inspiring tale of how minds and attitudes can be changed if people are willing to listen to and treat each other with respect. I would recommend this book to everyone especially those who are engaged in teaching profession.