I had an horrific English teacher in my final year of school–Mr. T.

Legendary for his nastiness. I’d heard about him for years. As I approached the end of high school, my fear grew. He was only inflicted on senior students. Why so?

When I discovered I’d been put in his class, my heart dried up in fear.

He was always grumpy, constantly angry, totally unpredictable.

Why was such a terrible person a teacher?

This would surely be an annus horribilis.

As the year started, I understood why.

Within a few months, a protest meeting had been organised by the parents of students to try to force his resignation.

He gave unbelievably low marks.

10/100, zero for some essays.

Almost no one got over 50%.

It was a nightmare.

A major shock to darling students such as moi.

Essays were unashamedly returned with stains of port glasses. This guy needed to drink to read our crap.

He would simply cross out entire paragraphs and write “flabby writing”. He was not exactly slender, but I digress. Introductions were basically superfluous. As were conclusions.

No one understood his rhyme or reason.

We were forced to memorise not piddling quotes but SLABS of Shakespeare.

He was old skool.

It was the last year before his retirement.

Through the year, my essays basically halved in length, as I cut out the flab.

Once I’d prided myself on how much I could write.

As my essays shortened, my marks rose.

By the end of the year I couldn’t write more than a page and a fifth of A4.

In fact, he remains one of my all time favourite teachers. And most influential.