Ryan Wilson’s Let That Be a Lesson: A Teacher’s Life in the Classroom tells an incredibly engaging and inspiring autobiographical tale, taking the reader by the arm through the dizzying, hilarious highs and heart-wrenching, disillusioning lows of Wilson’s dream career.
A true ode to the teaching profession, Wilson gives the reader an enlightening perspective from behind the teacher’s desk. While everyone has vivid memories of what it was like to be taught, and no doubt had many strong opinions (good or bad!) of their educators, Wilson provides a comprehensive account of what goes on behind the scenes in schools and in the personal lives of those who children are often shocked to find exist outside of the corridors and playgrounds. Their struggles, hopes, aspiration and unyielding passion for their craft are all laid bare before the reader.
The narrative is divided into anecdotes, roughly a page or two, creating an easily digestible page-turner, and while the majority will leave the reader chuckling away as a pupil says something dreadfully inappropriate in a completely innocent way, or Wilson himself commits one of his several incidents of honest mistakes and social faux-pas – such as being too bashful to accept a compliment from a mother and fellow teacher congratulating Wilson on inspiring her son to do well in English, and accidentally suggesting that the only reason the boy became enthused was an iffy relationship between an uncle and a niece in the text and that he must be ‘a fan of incest’.
Some chapters, however, will leave the reader indignant, heavy-hearted and sometimes mournful, as Wilson explains his issues with the ever-expanding bureaucracy inflicted upon teachers by the increasingly results-focused Ofsted and succession of Education Ministers that Wilson feels have dragged teaching away from its core values. Wilson also does not shy away from exploring the sadder aspects of being an educator, such as when tragedy strikes amongst friends and colleagues or dealing with children from clearly troubled backgrounds as they say and do things far too serious and potentially harmful for people so young.
Of course, the book is not all doom and gloom and has many moments of triumph that perfectly embody the reason for Wilson’s desire to teach – for instance, the shy Zofya delivering a remarkable presentation on the rights of LGBTQIA+ people in her native Poland, inspiring Wilson to explore and come to terms with his own sexuality. There are incredible students who manage to overcome their past and go above and beyond all expectations, misfits with a (sometimes slightly misplaced) heart of gold, and of course his personal heroes, shining examples of teachers and close friends Liz and Zoe, who uplift and provide stunning examples to be the best he can be.
Overall, Wilson’s Let That be a Lesson is an outstanding, gripping and informative read that you won’t regret giving your time to in the slightest.