22 Oct 2011

#talktoteens talking no more

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?
I don't want to sound like I know everything about journalism, because I don't, but even I can see that this is cruel, uneccesary, petty journalism by a paper which is meant to support schools. I'm embarrassed that it's my own local paper, quite frankly. I'm all up for supporting local press, but unless The Gazette respond with a GOOD apology and get Ms Berry back where she belongs, then I want absolutely nothing to do with them anymore. Even the school she works thinks it's ridiculous, and they printed their comments stating that!

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.

Supporting register. Louise Jones? HERE MISS!

16 Oct 2011

Desperate STEPS for Louise

I lasted a month being an adult. 'being' is the perfect word. 'living' would have been a lie. I went to a party! An 18th! My ID got rejected! Life just doesn't want me to be an adult, and this week, whoever controls this whole shabang and kerfuffle threw another element in to pull me back to being about 6 years old.

I remember first watching Steps' Chain Reaction video on TV (I was gonna say youtube, but youtube was barely a sperm in someone's brain 10 years ago) and thought it was so futuristic with its white set and blue shiny suits. I listened to Buzz on a loop on my CD walkman, and treated it like a newborn baby so it didn't get scratched. Spent all my mum and dad's money on AA batteries for the bloody thing. When I first got my CD player for my bedroom, I put Gold on, not realising I'd whacked up the volume to maximum and Tragedy blared out so loudly my 3 year old brother burst into tears and the dog down the next road wouldn't shut up for hours. Steps was my first addiction and love. Their songs were the first I danced to at birthday discos in little church halls. Their music just hit a chord deep within my heart that sent sparks around my body, and my eyes saw the world so differently and I FELT FREE!!!!!!!!!!.......too far?
There will be a constant rivalry in me between Steps and S Club 7. S Club 7 had it all. They had TV shows ffs. Steps didn't have TV shows. Not to mention the FILM, which I couldn't see because I wasn't 12 yet...and still haven't seen because I feel like I'm illegalising (i'm so good at making up words. that needs to be a legitimate word) my childhood. I will never see Seeing Double. My dad used to work in the City and me, clearly having no knowledge of the largeness of London, badgered him every morning to find the Top Of The Pops studios and get me tickets so I could see my favourite band. That obviously never happened and I will never forgive him. The grudge is buried deep within my soul.

But I did see them once. 10 years ago next month actually. Along with my twin friends, our mums bravely took us up to London to see them switch on the Oxford Street Christmas lights. The best part was that it was a tight secret, and we only found out because a lady in McDonald's asked if that was why we were up there. Stupid woman. They sang Have You Ever and I sat on a stranger's shoulders clasping my Betty Spaghetti so tightly and I might have even cried. Possibly from the cold wind up there (it was a long way up on his shoulders for an 8 year old alright).

But that's the only time I ever saw them. Strangely, it didn't seem to matter too much to me. Well, apart from the TOTP thing BECAUSE THAT WAS SO EASY FOR MY DAD TO DO, WASN'T IT? HMM? HHHMMMMM????? Ahem. I didn't need to go to every gig to be their biggest fan. In my little mind, under my awful fringe, I was the biggest fan of them all and Rachel was going to ask me to be bridesmaid at her wedding. Jo lived round the corner from my Nan and Grandad's house and you could see her bedroom from their back window. I was a stalker from the age of 6. Not much has changed really. 

I still have their posters, and all the CDs. Probably some of the fan club stuff as well. All of Steps' and S Club 7's albums are on my iPod and are highly likely the most played. THEY JUST MAKE ME HAPPY ALRIGHT? My 6 year old self was first stirred, and had a bit of a twitch in me like a foetus, on 30th April of this year. Lee Latchford-Evans, from Steps, THE Steps, was in Brentwood Details details. I was there, of course, and there he was indeed. Standing outside Zakz. On his own. No one paying him any attention. I froze, obviously, as per, so mum walked straight into the shop. I shuffled behind her, clinging to her jacket, and we pretend to be incredibly interested in the sports wear he was promoting. We were very sporty that day. 

Lee Latchford-Evans tapped me on the shoulder. TAPPED ME ON THE BLOODY SHOULDER. MY RIGHT SHOULDER. We spoke for a good five minutes about sport and fitness, and I miraculously managed to hold this conversation by bullshitting more than I do in most exams. He told me to feel the texture of his top. Now that was just WRONG.  6 year old Louise loved the music, not the looks, but good God maybe Freud was right and children do have a sexual sense in them. Oosh. Mum asked him there and then if Steps were planning on reforming. "The band are all talking. We're all friends! Never say never." was his response, I assume. I was too busy gngngngngngnging, but apparently that's what he said. I blagged myself a photo and I find it hilarious how I'm clenching my fist in emotion. 

That's me and Lee. Louise and Lee. Lee and Louise. Leeise. Louee. 

It was only the next month that Steps: The Reunion was announced. That cheeky sod. He knew all along. So obviously by the time September came around, my childhood was under my skin and itching to get out. The episodes have been incredible. I've realised that H is Welsh, which is probably why I loved him the most, and why I love the Welsh accent now, and that Lisa is a bitch and can't sing. Faye is adorable, Lee is lovely, and Claire has got a mighty set of lungs on her and deserved all of those main vocals. Steps have a personality now for me, not just cheesy pop hits that I fell in love with. 


Only problem is that I don't have tickets. Just a slight glitch in this glorious story of mine. I want to be right at the front of the O2 arena when they're singing Better Best Forgotten and Stomp. I want to scream and clap and jump and wear fluffy glittery Steps merchandise on my head. I want to lose my voice from singing along. But I don't have tickets. This is my plea. I don't know who's gonna read this. I haven't got a bloody clue who reads my blog anymore. But if anyone here is involved in any way possible with Steps, I'd give my SOUL for 2 front row tickets (if I can't get front row then you're not having my soul but I'm sure we could come to some arrangement). I'll pay. I'm willing to pay the full price for 2 tickets. I'll write a massive blog about it. I'll write for your website. I'LL DO ANYTHING FOR YOU. Please. Anyone. *sits on stage a la Katie Waissel* I'M JUST A DESPERATE 18 YEAR OLD WHO HAS NO SHAME AND WANTS TO RELIVE HER CHILDHOOD ONE LAST TIME.

It'll be a Tragedy if I can't go. I'll be a Deeper Shade Of Blue and my face will definitely One For Sorrow. I'll  Stomp forevermore, be Better The Devil You Know, and the whole incident will be Better Best Forgotten, but Love's Got A Hold On My Heart. Not going is the Last Thing On My Mind and I don't want to be the Baby Don't(not) Dance(ing). It's The Way You Make Me Feel, a Chain Reaction of childhood dreams when I was 5, 6, 7, 8, and it'll be an amazing start to a Summer Of Love. My Heartbeat will be erratic, Only In My Dreams have I thought this could happen, as When I Said Goodbye, After The Love Has(had) Gone, I thought that was it. Here And Now is when I can see them, and tickets oh please Say You'll Be Mine. Words Are Not Enough to describe my love and want. 

Now THAT'S gotta get me tickets, right?

Lots of love, your favourite teenager, Louise. xoxoxox