I didn’t have the easiest of childhoods. I grew up in the poorest borough in London, Tower Hamlets, the youngest of five children, raised by two migrant parents from Bangladesh who largely relied on benefits. When I was 10, my mum became ill and from that point on, until she died four years ago, the roles of parent and child were generally reversed.
Despite the challenges I faced, and the dim prospects for Bangladeshis in Britain — 53 per cent of whom were found to be working in low-skilled occupations in the 2011 Census — I have been fortunate to pursue a career in my chosen field, journalism, for a decade. I will soon be an author, too.
I could have gone down a very different path, but I was lucky to have my talent for reading and writing encouraged and nurtured from an early age by my teachers. That’s why Adele thanking her secondary school English teacher, Ms. McDonald, during her An Audience With… special on ITV over the weekend resonated so much with me.
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In a clip that has gone viral, Adele remembered Ms. McDonald fondly and was genuinely moved by their reunion at the London Palladium — even if she is now one of the biggest stars on the planet and has rubbed shoulders with everyone from royals to Beyoncé.
“She got me really into literature. I’ve always been obsessed with English, and obviously now I write lyrics,” said Adele, who added that McDonald was “so bloody cool, so engaging” and “relatable and likeable that I really looked forward to my English lessons”.
We all have a teacher, or teachers, that inspired us, who helped mould who we are. For me, that teacher was Helen, one of my first ever teachers, who passionately encouraged me to read when I was four or five. I was a precocious child. Although English wasn’t the first language in my household, from the earliest age, I constantly picked up new words from my older siblings or television shows, and had developed a somewhat sophisticated vocabulary by the time I came into Helen’s classroom.