MA (Hons) Philosophy, St Catharine’s College, Cambridge
PGCE Religious Studies, St Catharine’s College, Cambridge
MA UCL Institute of Education
Holder of the Farmington Scholarship 2018-2019
What makes a good teacher at Bedales?
Some qualities are important at all schools, such as being patient and supportive, but I think a Bedales teacher must have enthusiasm, with openness and a sense of humour. Bedalians want their teachers to love their subject enough to enthuse them. They also love it if you have lots of interests, or dimensions to your experience. Students are as likely to bring me their knitting as their homework in the evening. Sometimes, the knitting brings more intractable problems, though!
What are you trying to encourage and instil in the students?
Enthusiasm and passion for interesting ideas for their own sake. Bedales has this idealism about education at its core; that learning is for learning’s sake; that students should care about the things they learn. Aside from this enthusiasm, willingness to gain the skills required to think independently and logically is crucial. It is in this mixture that we achieve both academic rigour and a love of learning.
Apart from your teaching role, what else do you get involved with at the school?
As Assistant Head (Learning & Development) my job was to work with Bedales teachers to plan and deliver a great learning experience for our students, and to implement important research findings in the classroom. By doing this, Bedales continues to be at the forefront of educational practice, something it was founded to be. This is manifest whenever I go to a talk or conference about education. I tell people I’m from Bedales, and people are interested to hear more. Bedales is known, in educational circles, as somewhere it is exciting to learn.
A central part of this is the work I do with teachers. I run induction, both for teachers new to Bedales, and those new to teaching. I also put together programmes of INSET (in service training) and continuing professional development. This is great fun, because I have never yet met a teacher who isn’t enthused when talking about teaching and learning. Bedales teachers care so much about their work; their students; the school.
It’s also my job to be thinking about education, and to be responding to research. I’ve written around 15 articles and reviews for the TES over the last seven or so years, and am author of three peer-reviewed academic articles on education.
On the pastoral side, I have a Sixth Form tutor group, and a lot of my time is spent working with them on formulating their plans for after school. In the evenings, you will often find me on the 6.2 boarding house. In a previous role, I ran the Oxbridge programme at Bedales, so working with a Sixth Form tutor group and with 6.2s on Flat is a great way to keep my applications knowledge current. I always think that one of the nicest things you can do with a student is to help them determine their next steps, and it is a privilege to support them in this way.
I also spend time, when I can, doing music. I was a choral scholar when I was at Cambridge, so I sometimes sing in the choir and chamber choir. I have been known to play percussion in the orchestra now and again, though I’m not very good, so they usually have better options than to ask me!
I have run a range of activities over my time here, from knitting to patchwork quilting, to couch to 5k running, to cooking. Last year, I took on the Debating Society (or did they take me on?). I’ve really enjoyed preparing for public speaking competitions, planning Jaw Debates for the whole school, helping to run mock elections and keeping debating going online in lock down.
In your opinion, what makes Bedales special?
Handshaking. You stand and you shake hands with every single student. It says something amazing about Bedales as an institution: that we do not need to hide behind assumed authority, but approach the students as fellow human beings. When you come to Bedales, a really special moment will be the first time a teacher says your name in handshaking. It is also the last thing we do as a community at the end of the year. Handshaking therefore bookends your time here.
Educational ambition is also a key difference. Bedales was founded because, as Mr Badley said, what was around “simply would not do”. Bedales seeks not just to do what other schools do, but what is right. It has always been a trail-blazer, in so many ways, and this ambition continues to this day.
One example of this that has had a big impact on my every day experience teaching is the BACs. At Bedales, the BAC in Philosophy, Religion and Ethics is non-compulsory, yet we have around half of Block 4 students electing to take the course each year. The BAC provides opportunities for developing independent thinking and critical analysis, along with the possibility of covering material that many schools don’t get to touch on.
Outdoor work is also so different. Sitting with Block 3 students in the Bakehouse, zesting lemons, discussing philosophy whilst knitting, or willow-weaving in a barn built by students is something you wouldn’t get many other schools!
I think the built environment is also something that increasingly strikes me. Many of the buildings here were built, in part at least, by students. Many of them are built using local wisdom and old technology. Buildings can say a lot about a place, and ours speak to our Arts and Crafts heritage, which values 'head, hand and heart'.
Who or what inspires you?
Our students, especially in their independent endeavours such as the Utopia Projects they undertake in Block 5. Our amazing library, which is to me, the heart of the school. Our staff, who care immensely about what they do, and about the students they work with.
Tell us something not a lot of people know about you.
Most early examples of my writing are perfectly mirrored – right to left with all the characters the wrong-way-round. Thankfully, I was born at a time where burning witches was seldom practised!