I was reading a little from Sir Ken Robinson's The Element the other day. In there is a passage where he talks about the value of a good teacher, and that whilst some of us could pinpoint a vital teacher in our life, some of us couldn't.
So it got me thinking about the teachers that I still think of fondly now who have helped shape me. (By teachers I mean the people who were the 'establishment' at an educational facility only. I'm not discussing the notion of teaching - as that can come from everywhere.)
So I thought I'd spend a few moments thanking those teachers publicly, and in keeping with Sir Ken I'm going to overuse the word 'profound'.
There's only one teacher I can think of that helped shaped my thinking throughout my whole first 16 years. Sure there were teachers I enjoyed lessons with, but for the purposes of this post I'm thinking only about teachers that taught me something profound.
I was never really interested in English - language or literature - until I was taught by Mr. Henderson. Primarily this was down to two reasons: 1) We had free reign of the DTP computer in his class and were encouraged to design and write at every occasion; 2) He introduced me to Animal Farm. Not only was this a profound book in my growing up, but the way in which he taught it was quite brilliant. He made it fun to read. I'd never had that before - a book that I looked forward to reading. He totally shifted my perception of how interesting and exciting a book can be, and he also taught me some fundamentals in basic critical questioning.
Thankyou Mr. Henderson.
My Undergraduate Degree
Two teachers stick out here for me. One is based purely on a single learning, the other helped shaped my mind quite a bit.
Initially an amusing teacher because my brother lives in Peterlee. (Do you see the name thing! Funny hey!) One single thing happened that made me respect Peter and I still remember it. Mr. Lee was our 3D graphics teacher (I studied Architecture just as computers were starting to dominate the industry. My class was right on the cusp of the change with some of us presenting hand drawn ink graphics, and some presenting CAD drawings. A really interesting time.) On one deadline day one of my friends of off ill and when explaining he was worried he'd fail, Mr. Lee went into a tirade. Not about my friends illness, but about the inability of the rules of the University to accommodate ill people. This was a profound shift from other tutors I was learning from - they would very much toe the line of the University rules. This showed me that regardless of age, experience and situation there is always a place to question hierarchy and to never take it as gospel. A crucial learning. Always questions things. Sure some rules are there for a reason, but sometimes they're a dogma that needs shaking up.
Big thanks need to go to the last two of my influential teachers. Starting with Sam.
When I moved to London I was a young, naive Northerner a bit out of my depth and surrounded by so many amazing things I was a little overawed and also a little too ambitious in what I could do. I mean that in both professional terms and social terms.
Sam taught me innumerable things so it'd be difficult to pull out individual learnings but I can give no higher praise to Sam than to state that I think he turned me from a raw student into an employable, more intelligent professional. I grew up a lot when I worked with Sam.
In the Architecture world he was (and is) prepared to fuck things up a bit and the way he helped improve my creative thinking was amazing. I was very rational before I met Sam, and it's because of him in no small way that I now see things and immediately think of creative ideas. He taught me that it's OK to fully immerse yourself in others work and to then use that as a springboard to inspire your own work. There's a world of difference between that and stealing ideas, and one that James Young also acknowledges. Sam taught me how to look at things, and by critically questioning them to then piece them back together in a different order. In a new way. To create something new and fresh. That's the way a lot of people work.
Along with Mr. Lee above, Sam liked to fuck things up a bit and be a bit subversive. This has definitely rubbed off on me... and I think that's a good thing.
My MA was brilliant. I loved it. I looked forward to going to class and I looked forward to the coursework. It was the basis of a profound shift in the way I thought about myself and the way I thought about my career moving forwards.
Geoff is great. From minute one on lesson one you know where he's coming from. You know this isn't going to be a course where you jump through hoops and remember key facts for the exam hall. The course is what you make it and he explains this very early. Some found that uncomfortable as they're used to being spoonfed. I loved it.
Geoff taught me not only to critically question the fundamentals we'd been taught elsewhere, but to critically question our own questions. Geoff was also the first teacher that really taught me the value of parallel problem solving - of using examples and ideas from other areas and to think of them in relation to a problem in another area. He taught me the value of stripping away 'marketing bullshit' and, whilst using robust evidence to back up ones argument, presenting that argument in a simple lucid form. Something I still do every day.
My respect for Geoff was amplified when I tutored on his course for a couple of years. Seeing how constrained he was by the gatekeepers of the business of academia was depressing, but he always stuck to his guns - for the benefit of the students.
So there you go.
Four teachers I'd like to thank. Most of them are from Higher Education and this doesn't please me. My schooling in the North East wasn't particularly good and in fact my Comprehensive has since been closed down by OFSTED. My learnings during Higher Education have had a profound effect on the way I think, however, and I found it really useful to reflect on that. No matter what age we are, we should always reflect and learn.
In a time when every public service is being squeezed I thought I'd spend a few minutes to say to all my teachers not named here - thankyou. I know the difficulties you all face and I know how challenging kids can be.
But to the people I have named above: Thankyou so much. In some way I'm a mirror of your teachings... so be worried!