Words are extraordinary things. I love the way they can take you to places you’ve never been, without making you ever leave your own settee. I love the way they can seem to be telling you one thing and actually be saying something else entirely. I love the way that they sound as well as the way they look on the page, in all sorts of languages, especially when someone who really knows what they’re doing sets them to music.
Words might seem odd things to love, but they’ve been a very helpful guide when it’s come to finding interesting things to do with my life. I started off doing an English degree at Keble College, Oxford, reading and writing about the great works of English literature with the help of some of the great literary minds of the day. When I’d finished my degree in 1988 (gaining a 2:1), I spent my time running bookshops, mainly in Oxford, guiding others towards words that they too could enjoy.
After a decade of doing that, I decided to try my hand at the other side of the book trade, publishing. I did the M.A. in Publishing at Oxford Brookes University, graduating in 2001 with Distinction, and started looking for jobs. But before I could find one, the university roped me in to teach their new Publishing undergraduates, and that started me on the road to education, which I’ve been travelling along ever since.
I spent four years teaching undergraduates, and then took the PGCE teaching qualification at Oxford Brookes in 2006. Since then I’ve worked exclusively in independent schools, and I’ve had especially enjoyable jobs at two top girls’ schools, South Hampstead High School and Godolphin and Latymer School.
I’ve another string to my bow which might interest you. When I was at Keble, I was part of the team which won University Challenge in 1987; in 2000 I was the winner of another broadcast quiz, Mastermind. That got me involved in setting quiz questions, and I currently write for Brain of Britain, Round Britain Quiz, and Counterpoint. Tune in to BBC Radio 4 on a Monday lunchtime, and you might very well hear my words.
What you’ll also hear or read, when I’m tutoring you, is someone who sees a student’s confidence, and his or her enjoyment of the subject, as at least as important as their knowledge or skills. You can’t acquire either of those things, or hang on to them, unless you’re completely confident in what you’re doing or until you really love it. That’s what I focus on, and that might be why parents and pupils have often called me ‘inspirational’. I hope you think so too.