Miss Grayling’s Girls 7 – the rest of her teachers


I seem to preface an awful lot of posts with ‘It’s been a while since the last one of these’ lately. I have a terrible habit of enthusiastically starting a series of posts and then running out of steam despite having half-drafted ones remaining. I’m trying to be better at finishing things (hence On my bookshelf part 7 being published recently, a year and a bit after part 6).

If you’ve forgotten what came earlier, or weren’t reading this blog two or three, then here’s the past posts:

Miss Grayling’s Girls – an introduction
Miss Grayling’s Girls – the failures 
Miss Grayling’s Girls – the experiments
Miss Grayling’s Girls – the ones who almost messed it up
Miss Grayling’s Girls – the successes 
Miss Grayling’s Girls – her best teachers

Miss Parker

Miss Parker is the second-form mistress, and has a bit of a contradictory nature. She is often nicknamed Nosy Parker because of her large nose – and because she keeps sticking her nose into things the girls think are no concern of hers.

Certainly she was a most inquisitive person when she suspected any mischief was going on, and did not rest till she had got to the bottom of it.

Despite this she sometimes doesn’t take an interest in some of the things that she probably should.

Miss Parker did not often take any notice of Ellen. She was usually a quiet girl, with a name for bad temper, and Miss Parker was not at all interested in her, though sometimes surprised that her work was not better.

It’s no surprise that the girls leave Ellen to her own devices as she is indeed bad-tempered, but it is a shame that her form teacher simply writes her off and doesn’t wonder why a girl clever enough to get a scholarship is then struggling with the work. At least when she finds out that Ellen has been ill she is kind to her.

“You’re not up even to your ordinary work at the moment, let alone taking extra coaching. I shan’t expect much from you, nor will anyone else. So don’t worry.”

She also is said to worry about Ellen’s continuing poor work but puts it down to her still not being entirely well after her illness, as she notes that Ellen is paying attention in class and trying hard. Of course there is a lot more bothering Ellen and unfortunately Miss Parker doesn’t look any deeper. Then again, if she had, Ellen wouldn’t have tried to cheat and we wouldn’t have had the altercation between her and Darrell.

Miss Parker is described as strict but someone who occasionally has dreamy fits where she
forgets the class and sits gazing into the distance. Unsurprisingly the girls look forward to these rare moments and make the most of them! Yet Darrell says that She can’t stand anything vague or careless. It’s also said that she hates anyone messing with her time-table by being late.

She is sensible enough to know that Irene looking after Belinda isn’t a good idea, and forbids it after her first few days at the school

“That would mean the two of you getting lost. You’d probably be down in the swimming-pool waiting for a diving lesson whilst we were all up here doing maths.”

Miss Parker seems a fan of the outdoors and leads the girls on walks – seeing through Daphne’s attempts to get out of them. When one such walk is cancelled, and they instead have games and a picnic in the games hall she decides not to let Daphne know.

“No, you mustn’t disturb Daphne! She badly wanted to
have this extra coaching, Mam’zelle tells me, and was quite willing to forgo the walk. She would be willing to forgo the games and picnic too, I am sure. We mustn’t disturb her. When a girl shows herself to be as studious as that it would be a pity to spoil it all.”

She also forms part of the search-party when Daphne and Mary-Lou are found to be missing. It is she who walks back with Daphne, half-holding her up.

Miss James

The fifth form mistress, Miss James, is a tall spare woman of about fifty, whose curly grey hair framed a scholarly face with kind but shrewd hazel eyes. Moira describes her as easy-going to a point. Then look out! She changes from sweet to sour in the twinkling of an eye – and it’s bad for you if you don’t notice the change-over immediately. Still, Jimmy’s not a bad sort. She’s known as Jimmy when she’s sweet and James when she’s sour, according to Catherine.

We see very little of her in In the Fifth, though. Beyond her first lesson with the girls she hardly features! The fifth formers don’t play any tricks and are too busy with their pantomime for much trouble in class. Miss Potts deals with the poison-pen letters, I suspect Miss James has no idea about that.

She does show some sense in not encouraging ‘saint’ Catherine;

Catherine beamed. Yes – yes, she would help all she could. Miss James could depend on her, of course she could. She tried to catch the mistress’s eye, but for some reason Miss James steadfastly looked in the other direction.

She also promotes Darrell to head of fifth-form, though it was probably a joint decision as before.

Miss Oakes

When the girls reach the sixth form they fall under the care of Miss Oakes, who also teaches history. She seems to be liked well enough, despite not having a sense of humour.

I like Old Oakey. But I’ve often wished she had more sense of humour. She never, never, never sees a joke. But she always suspects there may be somebody leading her up the garden path. – Darrell

From what we see she it not very effective at handling Suzanne. Miss Oakes is always suspicious that Suzanne understands more English than she admits, but she doesn’t do anything about it other than think about having words with Mam’zelle Rougier.

She does however ‘deal’ with Gwen via some rather sharp words.

Miss Oakes was not interested in Gwen’s future school any more than she was interested in Gwen.

“You are not up to Higher standard, whatever school you happen to be in,” she said coldly.  “I can only hope that you will work  a little better this term than you have worked for the last two terms, Gwendoline. Would it be too difficult to leave me with a little better impression of your capabilities than I have at present?

She does appear insightful, however, I particularly like this insight into her thoughts from Last Term at Malory Towers.

Privately, Miss Oakes thought that Darrell and Sally would do much better at college than Alicia or Betty, although these to had quicker brains and better memories than either Sally or Darrell.

‘Being grown-up, and feeling free for the first time form bells and strict time-tables and endless classes, will go to Alicia’s head and Betty’s too. They won’t do a scrap of work at college! They’ll be out to dances and parties and meetings the whole time- and in the end sound little Darrell and solid little Sally will come away with the honours that Alicia and Betty should find it easy to get – but won’t!’

I think she has a point – but I’d hope that they’d learn to knuckle down if they found their marks slipping, much like Darrell did in her first form.

The two Mam’zelles

I’m not sure why Malory Towers requires two French mistresses, but two it has.

Mam’zelle Dupont is short, fat and generally genial. She is well-liked as she is reasonably easy-going, and can often be encouraged to chatter on about her nieces and nephews, wasting lesson time. She is generous with offers of extra coaching, but can become snappish and cross quickly if the girls’ work is extremely poor.

Mam’zelle Rougier is the opposite of her colleague, tall, very thin and almost always bad tempered. If she makes a joke is a feeble one about how hard the girls are going to work for her.

The only time she says something truly funny, it is probably quite unintentional;

I see no joke. It is not funny, teeth on the grass. It is time to see the dentist when that happens.

That was after Mam’zelle Dupont has laughed out a set of trick teeth.

The two mam’zelles cause a fair bit of bother in the school, and I’m not sure how helpful Miss Grayling finds them. Mam’zelle Dupont always falls for tricks, allows lessons to be disrupted (both her own and often others in the vicinity) and has ‘favourites’ based on their looks and charming smiles.

[They] both taught the Upper Fourth, but though actually Mam’zelle Rougier was the better teacher, plump little Mam’zelle Dupont got better results because she was friendly and had a great sense of humour. The girls worked better for her.

Then of course there’s the rivalry between the women, which comes to a head in ??? when they are both trying to cast the parts for a French play. Mam’zelle Rougier is sensible and casts the best French speakers, though she makes no regard for acting ability. Mam’zelle Dupont casts her favourites, the pretty girls who would look nice on stage. The poor girls have to swap back and forth each lesson until a rather nasty (but brilliant) set of drawings by Belinda are seen by the mam’zelles and they realise how foolish they have been. They are (probably briefly) best of friends after that, as two French women in a hostile English environment.

Miss Hibbert

A teacher of both English and drama, but only features in the third book.

Miss Hibbert did not look at all like a producer of plays. She was neat, with a well-fitting coat and skirt, and her hair, slightly wavy, was brushed well back. She wore a pair of glasses with rather thick rims. She was very efficient, and knew exactly how to pick the right actor for the right part.

Darrell explains how she does that;

“She tries us all out in almost every part several times. She does that for two reasons—she says that in that way she really does find the right actor for every part—and we all get to know every part of the play and work better as a team.”

Miss Hibbert gets annoyed by girls who don’t taking acting seriously, as evidenced by Gwen who is often ticked her off for being affected and silly in her acting. That does not bode well for Zerelda who we see to be an exceptionally over-dramatic and affected actress.

As soon as Zerelda arrives for the first rehearsal Miss Hibbert tells her off for having her hair back in it’s Lossie Laxton do, but allows her the role of Juliet as she says she has been practicing.

We’ve already been told that Miss Hibbert has her own way of dealing with stagestruck people who thought they could act – and Zerelda gets both barrels of it.

“How dare you behave like that? Sending the class into fits! Do you think that’s the way to behave in a Shakespeare class? They may think it comical but I don’t. Those are lovely lines you have been saying—but you have completely spoilt them. And do you really think it is clever to throw yourself about like that, and toss your head? Don’t you know that Juliet was young and gentle and sweet? You are trying to make her into some horrible affected film-star!”

“And why have you made yourself up like that?” demanded Miss Hibbert, roused to more anger by the giggles of the rest of the form. “I cannot tell you how horrible you look with that stuff on your face. You would not dare to go to Miss Peters’ class like that. I’m not going to put up with it. You may as well make up your mind, Zerelda, that you will never be an actress. You simply haven’t got it in you. All that happens is that you make yourself really vulgar. Now go and wash your face and do your hair properly.”

Well – that was Zerelda told. That may sound very harsh but at this point Miss Hibbert didn’t know that Zerelda was serious about being an actress, and thought that her performance was her playing the fool. When she does find out, she makes sure to talk to Zerelda and gives her some very good advice.

She is honest in saying that Zerelda doesn’t have the gift to be a great actress, and she also lacks one other thing.

“Well, Zerelda, in order to be able to put yourself properly into some other character, you have to forget yourself entirely—forget your looks, your ambitions, your pride in acting, everything! And it takes a strong and understanding character to do that, someone without conceit or weakness of any sort—the finer the character of the actor, the better he can play any part.
You are thinking of yourself too much. You were not Juliet being acted by Zerelda this afternoon—you were Zerelda all the time—and not a very nice Zerelda either!”

Then finishes with advising her on how to carry on from there, advice that Zerelda takes to heart and finds very helpful.

“You have let your foolish worship and admiration of the film-stars blind you, Zerelda. Why not try to be your own self for a while? Stop all this posturing and pretending. Be like the others, a schoolgirl sent here to learn lessons and play games!”…

“[A schoolgirl is] a very, very nice thing to be. You try it and see! I wouldn’t have been so hard on you if I’d known you had set your heart on being an actress. I thought you were just being ridiculous.”

Matron

Matron is not a teacher but she is an important staff member at Malory Towers, taking care of the girls outside of their lessons.

The girls just talk about going to see Matron as if there’s just the one, but it’s clear that there are four Matrons, one for each house. We only meet North Tower’s Matron but I expect they are all from a similar mould.

Matron is responsible for getting the girls settled in at the start of term, a job which includes checking their Health Certificates and making sure new girls are shown to their dorms.

She is also responsible for the doling out the girls’ pocket money, caring for their clothing and bedding, especially ensuring they properly repair anything that needs it.

Matron popped her head in and said she wanted Gwendoline.
“Oh, why, Matron?” wailed Gwendoline. “What haven’t I done now that I ought to have done? Why do you want me?”
“Just a little matter of darning,” said Matron.
“But I’ve done the beastly darning you told me to,” said Gwen,
indignantly.
“Well then—shall we say a little matter of unpicking and re-darning?” said Matron, aggravatingly. The girls grinned. They had seen Gwen’s last effort at darning a pair of navy-blue knickers with grey wool, and had wondered if Matron would notice.

Matron is kind but firm, and takes absolutely no nonsense from any of the girls. Although there is a sister in the san for girls who are very ill, Matron doles out medicines for minor complaints and according to Alicia, keeps a bottle of a particularly nasty one for malingerers like Gwen.

No— Matron simply never believed her. She would take her temperature and say, “My dear Gwendoline, you are suffering from inflammation of the imagination as usual,” and give her that perfectly horrible medicine.

Other teachers

There are of course other teachers, but we see very little of them so I can only provide a brief description.

Miss Linnie

Teaches art, though once she is referred to the sewing mistress in the fifth book. Miss Linnie is known for being easy going, so the girls can mess around in her classes a bit more than some others. She is young and has red hair done in little curls.

Miss Donnelly

Miss Donnelly is the actual sewing mistress. She is gentle, sweet tempered and gives nothing more than mild protests if the girls are misbehaving.

Miss Remmington

Miss Remmington is the games mistress, but is only mentioned in the first book. Alicia calls her Old Remington and implies she’s good at coaching, but

She won’t bother with the duds.

It is Miss Remmington who suddenly decides to hold a swimming display at half-term in First Form.

“So it would be nice this half-term, as it’s so hot, for your people to go down to the breezy pool, and see not only the beauties of the water, but the way their girls can swim and dive!” said Miss Remmington. “We will have a pleasant time down there and then come back for a strawberry and cream tea, with ices!”

Miss Carton

Miss Carton teaches history and is known for her sarcasm.

Miss Carton over there—see her—the one with the high collar and pince-nez glasses on her nose. She’s frightfully clever, and awfully sarcastic if you don’t like history. – Alicia

This is backed up in the Fourth Form.

Miss Carton, the history mistress, knew that the School Certificate form was well up to standard except for miseries like Gwendoline, who didn’t even know the Kings of England and couldn’t see that they mattered anyhow. She used her sarcastic tongue on Gwendoline a good deal these days, to try and
whip her into some show of work, and Gwen hated her.

Miss Greening

Only mentioned once that I can find, Miss Greening teaches elocution and the girls are advised to go to her for help with their pantomime in the fifth form.

Mr Young

I know that this series is Miss Grayling’s girls, and I’ve stretched that to include female teachers/Matrons (I said last time that these should be Miss Grayling’s ladies, if not for continuity) but I can’t miss out the only male teachers.

Mr Young is called both the music master and the singing master, as he takes both music and singing. As well as doing classes he also does individual singing lessons. It is said that he is either in a good temper, and the girls have to judge which and act accordingly. We only see him in Second Form (though he is mentioned in a couple of other books) where the girls play the chalk trick on him, this works well as he always sits on the stool and twirls around until it is the right height for him. He is also often slightly late for his own classes!

There he was, with his funny little moustache twisted up at the ends, his bald head with the three or four hairs plastered down the middle, his too-high collar, and his eyes large behind their glasses.

Mr Sutton

The other male teacher, and only mentioned in one book, Mr Sutton teaches carpentry, primarily to the first and second years.

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