#talktoteens talking no moreOctober 22, 2011
Teachers are stereotypically boring. Are we agreed on that? In books and films they're either female, skinny, tartan skirt, brown cardigan, glasses, and a low brown haired ponytail (usually fastened with a massive brown clip bought from the local christmas market), or male, overweight, glasses, BO, greasy curls with a bald patch on top, trousers up to his manboobs and flashing some ankle.
Of course, I'm not talking about every teacher going, and if you're reading this and are thinking of going into teaching, for the love of Pete don't let it put you off. Just read this, digest, take note, and be more determined than ever to be like Charlotte Berry, aka, @talktoteens.
When I first started talking to Ms Berry, as I call her, I never realised she was a teacher, let alone a teacher at the school down the road. We'd discuss my blog posts, TV, news, and whatever other random rubbish I was yabbering on about. She was hilarious, and part of my 'twitter family'. Then she became more to me. Even though I wasn't a student of hers, she helped me with my A Level Media coursework. Did you get that? 'I wasn't a student of hers'. I'm at a rivaling school. She was still helping me. Even then, she was stretching the boundaries of a teacher.
I soon realised that Ms Berry wasn't your generic "Tuck your shirt in." "I want silence." "1000 words due tomorrow." type of teacher. She wasn't a teacher at all, in fact. She was a inspirational woman who, ironically, set up a project to find real role models for teenage girls. Now, when teachers at my school try to set up a project, it fails instantly. Effort. Time. A half-hearted posters and 3 slide black and white powerpoint job. But Ms Berry had generated so much enthusiasm from her students that the project was a resounding success. An event was held in Chelmsford where these carefully chosen real role models were invited to talk about their profession. Consequently, the girls who set up the event grew confidence in themselves that they never knew they had. They realised they could, in a totally cliché way, be anything they want to be. Ms Berry made them realise that. Because of her, I'm basing my whole Extended Project Qualification (basically a mini dissertation), which is a large part of my A Levels, on the necessity of role models for young women. And I'm planning on her to be largely featured as one herself.
I talk about Ms Berry in the past tense, like she's not here anymore. Well she's not. She closed her account down this week in fear of being hounded. You see, a few picked up on her casualness and 'colourful tweets', as they put it, and completely ripped her apart. Not some trolls. They're a block job. I'm talking about her, our, local paper The Brentwood and Billericay Gazette. A paper which only last week published even more great positive work she'd done. The headline this week includes "obscene web chat". By 'web chat' they obviously mean tweets, but have used 'web chat' to assume 'chat rooms'. I firstly find this strange due to the fact they have a weekly twitter section in the paper. I secondly object to use of 'obscene'. This paper found her feed, stalked her tweets, and decided to take Ms Berry's tweets completely out of context, and twist everything she'd said. Nice. Tweets that were sent directly to people were laid out as public tweets, and were described as 'filthy' and 'sexually explicit'. Yes, she swears. Yes, she goes on about how much she wants Gary Barlow. EVERYONE SWEARS AND GNGNGNGNGNGNS ABOUT CELEBRITIES THEY WANT. There have been no complaints to the school, and the account even helps her students. She's a Media teacher for goodness sake. Tweeting and bantering with journalists is perfect for her job. Surely the twitter name she chose, @talktoteens, instantly proves that she's a bloody brilliant woman? The hypocrisy is outstanding. The teachers in Channel 4's Educating Essex are heard swearing to the nation, but apparently that's totally fine. No criticism there.
The victimisation of Ms Berry is beyond comprehension for me, and I just cannot understand the reason behind it. Do they want her to get the sack? Do they want the police involved? They know full well she's an incredible teacher. They've featured her success and brilliance a ton of times. This is a complete non-story, picked up on because they obviously have nothing else to talk about. Oh hold on, Dale Farm maybe?
But still printed the article even though they knew full well it would go nowhere?! All they've managed to achieve is humiliation for her, anger towards them by their readers, and a massive hit for her confidence.
If they've knocked my Ms Berry back so hard that she doesn't come back then I'll never forgive them. If they've stopped her from inspiring young girls then no one will ever forgive them. The support on Twitter, with the hashtag #talktoteens, has been outstanding. Never have I ever seen a teacher so loved, by not even those who know her personally. But I know she'll come back. My Ms Berry will bounce back with the confidence she's passed on to so many and carry on doing what she does best. Being bloody brilliant and setting homework by tweeting.
I want an apology from The Gazette. I want it printed in every version. I want it to be front page. This hasn't generated attention and sales, but a myraid of angry supporters who will stop at nothing to get the justice Ms Berry deserves. There are tweets suggesting that people like me and Matt Leys (who originally blogged about this) are being over the top with the whole situation, and are now bullies. Yes, well done for thinking that standing up for someone incredible who has been ridiculed and giving our support and opinions to the newspaper is bullying. We are, of course, the bullies in this situation. Regardless of whether we're blowing this out of proportion, especially as the school is behind her, I don't want this happening again. I want people to realise that journalism like this cannot happen, and if that means ranting on about it then so be it. I'm a teenager who's been affected by Ms Berry, and I'm standing up and speaking out to get her back. We need more teachers like her, ones you can talk about anything to. Ones you can trust. Ones that make you realise the potential you have to be brilliant. Ones that go above and beyond the call of duty. But how is that going to happen with rubbish like this happening? Ms Berry has influenced me, and in turn I'm going to influence others.
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