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Mrs Babcock by Gillian Anderson
TES magazine: 6 March, 2015

The star of The Fall and The X-Files lacked self-belief at school and was frequently in trouble, but a steadfast English teacher knew the true Gillian was out there. . .

Mrs Babcock was either my English or my creative-writing teacher in early high school. She used to come and visit me when I was in house detention - I would have been acting like an idiot, getting in trouble. She encouraged me to write poetry. She made me feel like I could write, like I had talent, and she encouraged me to continue.

Mrs Babcock gave me attention. She went out of her way, came to me and sat with me. I started a charity a few years ago in South Africa with a friend of mine; it provides mentors to youths for a period of time. Having a person who's reliable, who shows up - especially if you come from a situation where that was not the case, or you've been abandoned and realise you can't necessarily trust anyone - gives you that consistency. So does knowing that someone has faith in you and will stick with you.

It's very easy to feel shame, as a child, when you make mistakes. And it's very easy for adults to shame children. But it's destructive, especially if you're in the position of a teacher. Huge, huge damage can be done to self-confidence.

Mrs Babcock worked through my poetry with me and encouraged me to continue writing. And that, in and of itself, was invaluable. Sometimes I still write poetry. I go through stages where I write quite a lot, then stages where I write nothing for years.

My brother passed away a few years ago. He was in the process of getting his PhD at Stanford University. He had severe attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, but he was a crammer; he looked at learning as adventure and exploration. I didn't look at it that way. I felt that there were huge gaps in my education. I probably have some ADHD issues and memory-retention issues, so it's less to do with the quality of teaching I had and more to do with where my body was at. But I have huge admiration for people who can retain information and who find learning and memory effortless.

As a result of learning what my own weaknesses are in this area, I guess I'm more compassionate towards others who have weaknesses themselves. And having two young children who have their own struggles with reading starts to make you think. You wonder, is it just because he's learning to read far too early and he shouldn't be at this level yet? And he is just a child, for goodness sakes.

In all these things - observing myself and my children, and being asked to get involved in various programmes - I've realised for the first time how important education is to one's confidence. Mrs Babcock gave me confidence.

Gillian Anderson was talking to Adi Bloom

Deny everything

Gillian Anderson

Born 9 August 1968, Chicago, US

Education Coleridge Primary School, Crouch End, London; City High-Middle School, Grand Rapids, Michigan; the Theatre School at DePaul University, Chicago

Career Actor known for playing Dana Scully in The X-Files and Stella Gibson in The Fall

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