I remember the first time I met you Izzy Cottrell. You came bursting into my classroom, threw your bag onto the desk to stop anyone sitting down next to you, then proceeded to fling yourself onto the seat with a huge thump. You then listed all the reason we weren’t going to get on, all the things you had done to your previous teachers and basically all the things I shouldn’t do if I didn’t want to annoy you!
What a way to introduce yourself Izzy Cottrell. When I retold your grand entrance speech to one of my work mates she reckoned that you clearly had under estimated me if you thought I’d be put of by your list of does and don’ts.
You had underestimated my ability to see beyond your talk, your harshness and your demands. You had an openness and frankness that I admired. You liked being the only girl in a class full of car talking, bike crazy lads. You fitted right in with them and felt comfortable talking with them about engine sizes and driving. They were taken aback with your knowledge Izzy Cottrell, you surprised them.
You were really pleased with your first assessment in the class. You grew about 6 inches when I told you that you had the highest mark out of all my students. You asked if you could take the paper home to show your mum. When I could get you to stop talking, you worked hard on your maths. You had good skills. A few gaps from the times when you were excluded from school for being nasty to your maths teacher (I preferred not to ask) but huge potential to learn and succeed. A rough diamond, we got on just fine. Try as I might, I never could get you to modify your language for long although you did appease me and tone it down a notch. At least you tried to until you got into a heated discussion. Then you’d forget yourself. I picked my battles wisely.
Fast forward a few months and we had a new student in our class. Another girl called Kira. She’d been in a few other maths classes and hadn’t created a good impression. She was close to losing her place on her course if she didn’t start showing commitment and improving her attendance. I agreed she could join one of my classes as a favour to one of my colleagues who was tearing his hair out with her. You were not happy to have her in our class. You reminded me you didn’t like girls. It’s never easy when a new pupil joins an existing group and you two eyed each up carefully. For a moment I thought I may have made a mistake agreeing to the class change; I am always so quick to volunteer for unpopular tasks.
After a week or so, you two started to really get on well together. I think this was as much of a surprise to both of you as it was to me. You became firm friends. It was such a joy for me to see such a beautiful connection developing and growing. Always with your heads together, giggling, chatting, I can see you both now in my old class. Kira used to tell you off for smoking, for eating junk food, for not getting enough exercise. You used to tell her off for feeling sorry for herself, for not trying, for giving in too easy. You were a quite a pair! After class you both would stay behind for maths tutorial. I say maths tutorial – it was more like a proper good chat about what was going on with you two, your hopes, your dreams, your fears. I got to know you both as kind hearted, caring girls. We talked about your future – you were the top student in your class and you were going to university in September. Your mum was so proud as you would be the first one in the family to make the journey. You told me about some of the things that had happened to you. Matter of factly, you wouldn’t allow me or Kira to feel sorry for what you’d gone through. I’d read your file Izzy Cottrell, I knew why you were tough on the outside. I also got to see the real you, the girl behind the talk.
You asked me once why I always called you by your full name, Izzy Cottrell. I told you that ‘full naming’ was an honour reserved for special people! Always quick with a witty retort you asked if that’s because you were a pain in neck (probably not the word you used). Yes that’s usually why the double naming begins but rarely why is sticks.
I remember the last time I saw you Izzy Cottrell. It was a Friday morning after the GCSE exams were over. I was grabbing a coffee from the college shop when you saw me and came bounding over for a hug. You told me to have cheesy chips – it was 8.30 am in the morning. You were looking forward to going to the V festival with Kira. She’d booked tickets and sorted out a tent for you both. You couldn’t wait to tell me about a boy from our class and how he wanted to take you on a date. You weren’t convinced on him though. Friends was enough for you. That was the last conversation I had with you.
My boss took me to her office on Monday morning and told me you’d been killed in a car crash. We both cried and hugged at a beautiful life taken so very soon. As a parent, my heart ached for what your mum and family must be going through. So hard to imagine how their world must have been shattered that day.
I phoned up Kira later when I felt strong enough to talk. She was heartbroken as I knew she would be. She came to see me a few days later and we spent a while together just talking and remembering you Izzy Cottrell. She cried. I wiped her tears and sorted out her hair and make up. We thought you’d like that. I helped her with her college application – we knew you’d approve. When she left, me and our admin assistant cried for about twenty minutes. Kira will never forget you Izzy, I know that your friendship was something very special. I hope she finds another friend soon. She needs that.
I’ll never forget you Izzy Cottrell. I don’t think I taught you much maths but you taught me so much about looking under the surface of people, about giving everyone a chance. You showed me about the power and beauty of friendship, that it’s all there just waiting for a smile to be shared between two people.