Henry Stoot, Head of Boarding
Henry Stoot
Head of Boarding and Teacher of Geography

BA Geography, University of the West of England
PGCE, University of Buckingham

What makes a good teacher at Bedales?

In order to promote a love of learning, the classroom needs to be both a fun and inclusive environment, but there is nothing more important than building excellent, positive relationships with the pupils you teach. A good sense of humour along with a genuine passion and interest for the subject you teach are crucial tools in creating an atmosphere that fosters truly meaningful progress. I am blessed to teach a subject as broad and diverse as Geography, but the subject is also so relevant in the 21st century. Whether combating climate change, understanding the pressures of population growth, or perhaps the impact human activity has on both the water and carbon cycles, a good Geography teacher must have knowledge of what is happening yesterday, today and in the future, in this ever changing world. There is nothing more powerful, when teaching this wonderful subject, of incorporating real world and current examples of Geography from every corner of the planet.

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

Ultimately, the best geographers are those who are passionate about the subject, both inside the classroom and outside the classroom. While I want everyone I teach to achieve the best possible outcomes, I take just as much pleasure in seeing them (or hearing about them) discussing our lesson content with friends and family outside of class. A good geographer needs to be interested in the subject curriculum but also in the wider context of what they are studying. Take a lesson on the importance and value of peatlands in regulating our climate – I want to see enthusiastic learners leave the classroom and explore wider resources and examples of peatlands around the world. That enthusiasm, and dedication to the subject, is what leads to success and it is up to the classroom teacher to instil those qualities in the young geographers sitting in front of them.

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

As the Head of Boarding, my job is to ensure that the boarding experience is as amazing as it possible can be. I have incredible memories from my time as a boarder and my hope will always be for our boarders to have that same experience. I work closely with the other Houseparents to ensure our boarding houses are consistent and that they offer the same opportunities to all of our boarding family. I also oversee the weekend programme and approach that role with my motto of ‘food, fun and friends’.

I also have the greatest pleasure of all within this profession of being a Houseparent to approximately forty pupils in New Boys' Flat. Having the chance to act in loco parentis, to build incredible relationships, and to spend quality time with these young people everyday is the greatest joy of all. It puts a spring in my step every morning and I am filled with excitement and energy whenever I get to spend time in the boarding house.

In your opinion, what makes Bedales special?

The school's greatest strength, in my opinion, is that it is perfectly placed to allow for seamless relationship building within the community. As a previous housemaster in a more traditional boarding school, my day would often start with a number of negative interactions, normally focussed around challenging pupils on their uniform. At Bedales, pupils have the freedom to wear what they choose and this serves as just one example of the removal of relationship building barriers. We are all on first name terms and have the joy in inviting pupils within our care for supper in what we call ‘at homes’. This leads to the creation of positive, meaningful and lasting rapport, built through interaction and experience, and is crucial in making school communities so special; in my experience, no community has ever trumped Bedales.

Another aspect of the Bedales difference, and something I haven’t witnessed to the same extent anywhere else, is the pure love the pupils have for their school. For many, being a Bedalian is an honour and therefore not an opportunity that goes wasted. When I was first toured around the school, by two delightful 6.1 students, I was staggered by the opportunities they had, the engagement they had, in not just their routine timetabled lessons but through their co-curricular engagement. One of the guides spoke about her love for early morning bread baking, followed by a period of meditation before breakfast. At lunch she spending time learning how to blacksmith and in the evening, she split her time between directing her own play and enjoying time with her friends. The amazing thing about Bedalians is that they are doers. There is great opportunity but also tremendous take-up and this is not solely because the school has good provision, it’s because that provision is built with the pupil body in mind and led by staff with extraordinary passion.

I think the ultimate compliment I have for Bedales is that despite having a wonderful boarding experience at a more traditional school myself, I would have loved to call myself a Bedalian. My two sons are already registered at the pre-prep. This school has wowed me in my short time here and I want my children to have that same experience.

At Bedales, there is great opportunity but also tremendous take-up, and this is not solely because the school has good provision, it’s because that provision is built with the pupil body in mind and led by staff with extraordinary passion

 

Who or what inspires you?

As a geographer, it is hard to look past the life and work of Sir David Attenborough. His dedication to our planet and to science is what inspired my own love of it. What’s more is the work he is still doing, even though he is well into his nineties and could (or perhaps should!) have his feet up; talk about dedication!

My love for our planet that Sir David Attenborough inspired me to have is what drives me outdoors whenever possible. I am rarely happier than when I am atop of a mountain, with my little spaniel by my side, drinking in a beautiful vista. I am thrilled to be living so close to the South Downs but any chance to go further afield, perhaps to the Lake District or up into the Highlands, is taken without question.

Ultimately though, my greatest inspiration is my family. My parents who raised me and my siblings who helped me navigate adolescence and beyond. My wife Erin Clare, who is the most incredible mother two our two boys Patch and Mackie. It is time with the people I love where I find my greatest source of inspiration.

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

When I was a student at university, I grew frustrated with the lack of opportunity to write creatively. It was essay after essay, exam after exam! I decided to start a blog, reviewing new films and writing about older films that I was passionate about. I created a Spotify playlist, one I love to this day, filled with my favourite film scores. In essence, I was, and still am, a huge cinema nerd!