Most of us would love to be perfect teachers: the ones who have a positive influence on students’ lives, who pupils remember fondly when they grow up to be mature, well-rounded adults. But not all of us feel the compulsion to be firm but fair, kind and wise, intelligent and inspirational. Some teachers seem to revel in being an ogre. Here are five fearsome teachers from fiction who have students quaking in their boots.
Miss Trunchbull in Roald Dahl’s Matilda
Dahl didn’t have a great time at school, so it’s small surprise that many of his fictional teachers are ghastly creations. The most awful of them all is Miss Trunchbull, headteacher of Crunchem Hall and a former Olympic shot-putter. This horrid head likes nothing more than torturing her pupils by throwing them around by their hair, or force-feeding them chocolate cake.
Miss Caroline Fisher in Harper Lee’s To Kill A Mockingbird
Miss Lee is a teacher who puts rules before reason. This is ably demonstrated when she announces to Scout, who has just started school, that she must stop reading because she has been taught incorrectly by her father, Atticus. This ridiculous gesture ignites Scout’s contempt for school and has the reader burning with a sense of injustice.
Miss Scatcherd in Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre
Mean and vicious, Miss Scatcherd is particularly unkind to Jane’s friend, Helen. She frequently admonishes her and even strikes her with a bunch of twigs on occasion. But Helen refuses to stoop to Miss Scatcherd’s level – she remains calm and contrite in the face of her bully’s aggression.
Mr Creakle in Charled Dickens’ David Copperfield
From the moment David Copperfield arrives at Salem House, we know he will not have a happy time there. The odious Mr Creakle, the headmaster, is in league with David’s unpleasant stepfather, Mr Murdstone; no sooner is David through the door, than he is being made to wear a sign reading ‘Take care of him. He bites.’ around his neck – probably at Murdstone’s instigation. Creakle also regularly beats David. A most unpleasant character!
Dolores Umbridge in JK Rowling’s Harry Potter series
Miss Umbridge is not a qualified teacher – and it shows. Her desire to teach is far, far outweighed by her desire to tyrannise. When she takes over at Hogwarts, one of her principle delights is getting Harry to carve words into his own hand. Not something Ofsted would take kindly to.
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