To Sir With Love

Last night I watched ‘To Sir With Love’. Again. It addresses the social and racial issues of a 1960’s tough inner city school…

Mark Thackeray (Sydney Poitier) takes on a teaching appointment in the East End of London…

Most of Thackeray’s students have been rejected by other schools; their disruptive behaviour drove the last teacher to resign. Thackeray remains calm, treats his class with consistency and respect, and expects high standards of them. He gradually wins his class over… At the end… at the school dance Lulu sings ‘To Sir with love’:

Those school girl days of telling tales
And biting nails are gone

But how do you thank someone
Who has taken you from crayons to perfume?

It’s a story about young people changing, turning their lives around, growing up. It’s sentimental but inspirational… and as the teenagers are transformed the teacher is too.

Ezekiel 36… Background history… Jews have been taken into exile to Babylon. Jeremiah’s prophesying to those remaining in Jerusalem; Daniel’s part of the Babylonian government; Ezekiel’s speaking to disheartened exiles:

‘I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you. I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh…’

It’s a picture of transformation for Jews… or East End teenagers… Self-centred disobedient, disillusioned, delinquents become caring, thoughtful and respectful…

Ezekiel’s talking about physical, human change; he’s also talking about a much deeper, spiritual, internal change.

In Thackeray I see a picture of the transforming divine teacher…

For Ezekiel, Thackray, the students and me… transformation moves us on to what comes next. Lulu’s song lyrics become my prayer:

The time has come for closing books
And long last looks must end…

A friend who taught me right from wrong
And weak from strong
That’s a lot to learn, what
can I give you in return?

…But I would rather you let me give my heart
To Sir, with love.

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