Every teacher must, of necessity, be able to write - but not every teacher has the creative talent to be a writer. So it was with a degree of apprehension that I agreed to review Una Dowding's book 'Miss! Miss!' subtitled intriguingly the Confessions of a West Country teacher. I need not have worried. Here is a teacher, wordsmith and poet all rolled into one. Una - who lives in Gloucester - has penned a page-turning memoir based on her thirty years of teaching in schools in and around the city during which she coped with the keen, the reluctant, the capable and the challenged. Her reminiscences are at one and the same time witty and sad, poignant and thought-provoking but always making for compulsive reading. While she began her career in a mainstream school at Dymock, Una's innate compassion for pupils with emotional, behavioural and learning difficulties gradually moved her focus towards special education - particularly those who found reading difficult. This was hardly a surprise since Una herself is dyslexic and could empathise with those facing the same obstacle to learning which she herself had had to overcome years earlier. After serving an 'apprenticeship' with special pupils at various city schools Una became head of a special education unit at Robinswood Junior School. Here, as elsewhere, Una was faced with children who thought of themselves and had been branded by others, as failures. Helping children work to their full potential required patience, imagination, perseverance and determination, all of which Una seems to have had in abundance. But it wasn't all one way. Una's touching and often humorous stories tell how her pupils often enriched her own life with a sense of satisfaction and joy (although sometimes tinged with sadness). It's a fascinating read set against a constantly changing social, economic and educational background. However it's the vivid way in which Una recounts her experiences with pupils, parents and teachers which capture and hold the reader. Whilst trying to spare Una's blushes, it's also the story of a gifted teacher who has done a remarkable job and made a world of difference to those entrusted to her care. JOHN LOVELL 'Miss! Miss!' is an engaging and wise account of Una Dowding's life and teaching career told with love, compassion and understanding. In this collection, interspersed with selections from her poetry, she recalls incidents throughout her life, as student, teacher and mother living in the county of Gloucestershire.