My friend, Steve Ransom, of Suffolk New College, was the teacher everyone wished they could be
Liz Nice remembers her Suffolk New College colleague Steve Ransom, of Trimley, who died suddenly last week, aged 45.
Some years ago, I decided to live out my Dead Poet’s Society fantasy and become a teacher.
It wasn’t as easy as I thought. After years of having people listen to me merely because I was the boss, I was faced with a group of youngsters who couldn’t have cared less if I was the Queen herself, because their phones and love lives were far more interesting.
I tried telling them off, getting on my high horse, lecturing them about how they were throwing their futures away; all to no avail.
Then one of my new colleagues found me feeling sorry for myself. I tried to walk away, but he put out a hand.
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“I used to go home and cry, too,” he said, “But you’ll get there. Just be yourself.”
I was surprised to meet a man who would admit to crying so freely.
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I don’t make friends easily, but he felt like my friend from the start.
I decided to watch him at work.
What was his secret?
How did he manage to get a class to listen when I could not?
His method, it turned out, was simple – and a method I knew I would struggle to emulate.
He was hilarious and had the quickest wit of anyone I have ever known. Any student that went too far was slain with a zinger that would have everyone, including the student themselves, laughing along.
I couldn’t ever be as funny as he was, but there was one way I could follow my friend’s example.
Treating students with respect. Listening, rather than telling. Starting with what they were interested in, and working back to what they needed to know.
He was a great teacher, who had come to his vocation late, having worked in insurance and getting his degree just a few years before.
His greatest skill, I always felt, was in teaching Access students – adults who, for whatever reason, had not succeeded at school, but who were looking for another chance to live the life they had always felt was out of reach.
For some it was teaching, nursing, midwifery…
It didn’t matter. My friend, who taught them English, showed so many of them that grammar, Shakespeare, literature in general were nothing to fear.
He would stand in the classroom, taking in all the nervous faces on their first day, and would soon have them eating out of his hand because, quite unashamedly, he could tell them that he too had once been where they were.
He’d felt like he couldn’t do it either.
And now he was living his dream.
I can’t begin to imagine how many people my friend has inspired.
He chose to be a teacher and he did it so well, although he could have had equal success as a writer if he’d chosen to.
He once won a Radio 5 prize for his radio play and when I returned to journalism, I used to try to get him to write for us here at the EADT on various subjects he was passionate about.
Sometimes he would, but he had that Suffolk reticence about putting himself in the limelight.
I used to feel a bit frustrated at this, wanting to share his light with the world, but I think it was always enough for him to shine for the people he knew and loved.
He was a family man who spoke with glistening eyes of his beloved children, Betty and Ned, and who loved his wife, Lisa, the way every woman dreams of being loved.
My friend’s name was Steve Ransom and he came from Trimley.
He died last week, quite suddenly, aged 45.
Our last exchange was the weekend I ran the London Marathon, when he wrote that I was his hero.
But of course, that was a bit of nonsense.
The truth was; he was mine.
Details of Steve’s funeral will be published as soon as they are available