Student Question

How does Mr. Braithwaite join his class on a journey to adulthood in To Sir With Love?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Mr. Braithwaite first of all establishes an attitude of mutual respect in the classroom.  He is a teacher first of all, and his responsibility is to teach his students; in order to do this, he sets the groundwork to allow for meaningful and honest communication.   Mr. Braithwaite makes it clear that when he speaks, the students are to listen without interruption of any sort, and in return, when they are speaking, he will let them "say their piece" without interruption as well.  Mr. Braithwaite reminds the children that, as members of the top class, they have a responsibility to set an example for the younger students.  As the oldest students, they must be "top in cleanliness, deportment, courtesy and work".

Mr. Braithwaite tells his students that, since they will very shortly be embarking "on the very adult business of earning a living", he has decided that "from now on (they) will be treated, not as children, but as young men and women, by (himself) and by each other".  He describes for them the "higher standards of conduct" expected of adults, as it relates both to their appearance and to the way they speak to, and act towards, each other.  Mr. Braithwaite will require that he be addressed respectfully as "Sir" or "Mr. Braithwaite"; the girls in the class will be addressed as "Miss" by himself and by the boys, and the boys will be addressed by their surnames.  When one of the students asks why the girls should be called "Miss" by the boys who have known them all their lives, Mr. Braithwaite emphasizes to the boys that the girls are worthy of such respect, and impresses upon the girls that they must indeed "show themselves both worthy and appreciative of the courtesies (the) men will show them".

By clearly mapping out high standards of behavior for both himself and his students, and by holding both himself and his students accountable for meeting them, Mr. Braithwaite is challenging his class to join him on a journey to adulthood.  As the young men and women learn to shoulder responsibility and leave childhood behind, their teacher will help them "in every way (he) can, both by example and encouragement" (Chapter 9).

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access
Approved by eNotes Editorial