RIP Maxine Jackson

They didn’t do Drama at my secondary school, that’s not true actually – they didn’t teach Drama or Theatre Studies or anything else of that ilk. Looking at the website Royston Vasey Grammar still doesn’t teach such things they do still have the school play though (The Mikado this year apparently) but I couldn’t find out if they have the House Play competition which led to people who wanted to do drama etc being involved in two or three plays a year. (So that’s auditions, rehersals, prop-making etc.etc. and that’s every term of the year plus holidays)
I sometimes thanks the gods that my year (exams in 2000) was the last to do A-Levels with minimal coursework – if I hadn’t been able to rely on my beloved memory (it works for random academic data) and talent for exams I would have failed. This is in no small part down to Mrs Jackson.

Mrs Jackson was a wonderful teacher. Keep reading, I will explain. She never actually taught me in a classroom, she was a Chemistry teacher but my class usually had Dr Crazy-Carr teaching us instead. She went on school ski-trips, outdoor pursuits trips, organised charitable events and helped out with make-up and prop-making for various school plays. I have it on good authority that within her House at school she was also really enthusiastic about the House Plays – I wasn’t in her House either. How can I say she was a good teacher then? Because her theory of education (which in no small part helped me form my own) was based on more than just what happened in the classroom. She was a teacher concerned with all aspects of a pupil’s life and education and outside the classroom was just as important as inside. Given that she had been pushing to be more involved in the various plays that different teachers had put on at Royston Vasey and I got on pretty well with her she was the obvious choice when I had my truly insane idea.

In my lower sixth I had studied The Crucible as part of English Lit (then I went off with Gladular Fever and it became the only text I studied in such detail as I had no idea what the rest of my class were doing so I just went over and over it). We all agreed that it would make an amazing play. So I decided I should put it on and suggested it to Mrs Jackson. She directed, I produced. I didn’t attend any lessons for my A-Levels for about a term and a half but I learnt everything I could imagine about event organisation. I booked rooms for auditions, I booked the venue, I learnt every line of that play as I practised lines with people, I had suggestions for staging, I made maquettes (there was a reason I passed A-Level Art even though it’s a practical subject) and I made and displayed posters. She talked to me as though I was another adult with whom she was putting on a play, we practiced throughout the holidays and then we put on the play – it sold out and we got a review in a national paper (I’ve forgotten which one).

She allowed me to be involved in everything, whenever there was a problem or something to be decided we talked it over together. We talked about the artistic presentation of the play, some of my ideas were unworkable but then so were some of hers and after the relevant argument during which we’d both put forward our cases forcefully she would admit it. We argued and it was my first experience of that creative bond of dislike and like (dislike because of the arguments, like for the artwork that you’re producing) that puts a creative event on.
I think she didn’t worry about me in terms of the amount of lessons that I missed because she knew that everything I was learning working with her on this play was important. I really learnt how to be constructively creative with her – making an artwork for an audience and for a cast rather than as part of some academic curriculam and in accordance with a theoretical rubric. My methodology when faced with LARP events, my degree show and most creative events since, I realise is the one she used, slightly hectic and a little slap-dash but at base heavily organised and timetabled to work.

I don’t know sometimes how my school-life was quite as odd as it was but Mrs Jackson with her eyes twinkling was often around at those times when it got to it’s strangest. She was the teacher who leant my Dad her swimsuit in which he won the Miss Snowdon Ranger contest (Annual School Trip during which we would have a contest when the girls would dress the boys and all the male staff in female outfits, no one had dressed *that* scantily before). She was the teacher who took random pupils to Wales to stay in a barn and just do as we like for a week…I’m sure there was more to it than that but I don’t remember it. There were other things too and her sense of humour features in most – slightly askew and with a lot of steely twinkles.

She was one of the very few teachers who explicitly knew I was bisexual. I think that that says an awful lot.

She was fifty six and I found out she died via facebook today. There are a great many messages of sadness and support on her facebook page. Mostly they’ve been memories about Chemistry lessons. I’ve got no idea what she was like in a classroom, but she was an amazing teacher outside of them.

Rest in Peace Mrs Jackson.

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