Annabel Smith

Head of Global Awareness, Bedales

International History BA, The London School of Economics and Political Science
PGCE, Oxford
MSC Human Rights, The London School of Economics and Political Science

What makes a good teacher at Bedales?

You have to enjoy spending time with young people and exploring ideas with them. You can’t rely on textbooks, and you have to expect the unexpected. I try to capture their imagination, to tell them something surprising and intriguing that will keep their curiosity and encourage them to think of the world as an incredibly interesting place.

What are you trying to encourage and instil in your pupils?

I’m trying to get young people to see the world in terms of stories. The best way to make sense of complex theories and contradictory arguments is to see the impact on individual people. I want my students to explore  ideas, to engage with arguments and to get involved. Above all I want them to develop their own passion and purpose in life.

Apart from your teaching role, what else do you get involved with at the school?

I am a sixth-form tutor and I oversee all the local and national and international community based global awareness projects - from local community engagement to global learning projects with our international partner schools (Swaziland, America, India, Botswana, Dubai and China). We are developing learning strands connected to all of our partners – so if you go to Swaziland, the experience starts months before you leave, and continues after you come back. We aim to capture as much of the learning as possible, making full use of journalism, photography and film-making.  I work closely with a student global awareness team, which also helps me organise our annual Global Awareness Lecture.

In your opinion, what makes Bedales special?

The relationships between students and teachers. There’s a real warmth, and so much scope for shared ideas and ongoing conversations. Bedales is buzzing with ideas and the culture allows those ideas to flourish and develop. Students are trusted in lots of ways and their opinions are asked, which makes an enormous amount of sense – they’re the experts. After more than twenty years of being called Miss Smith, I love being called Annabel.

What is your best memory of Bedales?

The Global Awareness Lecture with Shahidul Alam – it was a wonderful evening and inspired weeks of amazing conversations.

Who or what inspires you?

A lot of strong women inspire me. I met the Nigerian writer and feminist Chimamanda Adichie on a writing programme in Kenya in 2007. She’s a brilliant storyteller, and has a way of writing about the world that makes sense to people without offending them. Also Wade Davis, who must have the coolest job in the world, Explorer in Residence at National Geographic. He’s another great storyteller, and he gave the best careers advice I ever heard, ‘do what you love and a job will come and find you’.

Tell us something not a lot of people know about you.

I was nearly eaten by a lion once....I was living in Kenya and we were in the Maasai Mara. The car got stuck in the mud at nearly sunset and I got out to try and find a way out only to realise there was a young male lion sitting looking at me. My boyfriend decided to drive the car off in the other direction, leaving me with the lion. Nothing happened thankfully…they look cuddly until you get up close, then you realise they’re really not! I was also in Madagascar with two friends when we discovered a previously unclassified stick insect.

Visit Annabel's webpage: www.annabelsmith.org