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Inbetweeners' Greg Davies remembers his best teacher

The former teacher turned actor and comedian, and host of today's TES Schools Awards, remembers the mentors who listened to his jokes and took his creative exploits seriously

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The former teacher turned actor and comedian, and host of today's TES Schools Awards, remembers the mentors who listened to his jokes and took his creative exploits seriously

My reasons for choosing these best teachers are almost non-educational, as ludicrous as that sounds. I had some great teachers and I’m sure I learned a great deal from them. But my two favourites were Ed Lamont and Derek Evans, English teachers at Thomas Adams School in Shropshire, who taught me on and off from Year 9 right through to A-level.

The reason they are my favourites is the same for both of them: they ignited within me a love of literature and for the arts generally. They were also probably the first people to take me to the theatre.

But it was more than that: they were the first teachers who actually listened to us – that’s how we all felt and that’s why we still speak of them in such fond terms. I was in a group of friends at school who were constantly making up nonsense comedy sketches. Mr Lamont used to run an arts festival and he allowed us to do silly comedy sketches for it.

We were also in a terrible comedy band called Doom Trivia. One thing that really sticks in my mind is the occasion when Doom Trivia recorded an album on a cassette, which I’m sure was absolutely rubbish. Mr Evans took it home with him; after the weekend he came in and he had written a two-side review of the album.

I’ll never forget that a teacher had taken our absolute nonsense that we’d done in our spare time and had listened to it and had then done a track-by-track review of it. It was the first time I saw teachers engaging in the things that were exciting us at the time, and they clearly thought those things were funny and liked us. They were the first teachers where I felt it was a two-way street.

For as long as I can remember, I was trying to make people laugh. A primary teacher called Dave Swan let me tell him a joke when I was about 7; it was probably rubbish but he laughed. I remember him fondly.

I had a lot of great teachers, but Mr Lamont and Mr Evans were the ones who stood out for me: they were the ones who listened to me and encouraged me. As well as being great teachers of literature, they encouraged me to develop skills I am using now. They were very supportive of my early stages of comedy, when I was huddled in the corner of a playground making up nonsense with my friends.

They were very active. They were very excited by young minds and by young creativity. Mr Evans left to go and teach in Egypt or somewhere and we wrote him a goodbye song that I’m sure was hauntingly beautiful.

They certainly taught me the importance of listening to children and taking them seriously. I fell into teaching, if I’m honest. When I was a drama teacher, I hope that when the children came to me with their badly formed ideas, I took them seriously and made them feel like those two teachers made me feel. I hope so.

Several teachers inspired the character of Mr Gilbert [the terrifying head of sixth form that Davies plays in The Inbetweeners], but they were from my teaching career. I remember this guy called Mr Morgan, a Welshman with incredibly big eyebrows, who was one of those teachers who could walk into a classroom and inspire silence just by raising one of his impressive eyebrows.

However, I do remember one incredibly strict teacher from my school days, Mr Mills, who was feared by all. In Years 7 to 11, his reputation was formidable. When you got into sixth form, you realised that he was a really nice man, but he had this role, which was to be the feared individual in our school.

Teaching is a great job if it’s a job you want to do. I learned so much and had a great time with the kids, but I certainly have said some disparaging things about teaching. In stand-up you have to find an angle, and mine was that I hated teaching and it was stressful. Really, the only dreadful thing about teaching was that I wanted to do something else and that was eating away at me: I needed to get comedy out of my system.

I don’t think teaching would have me back now. But, still, some of my best friends are people I taught with.

Greg Davies was talking to Helen Ward. Davies is hosting the 2015 TES Schools Awards, which take place this evening.

Comedy giant

Greg Davies

Born 14 May 1968

Education Thomas Adams School, Wem, Shropshire; studied English and drama at Brunel University

Career Best known for starring in TV series The Inbetweeners, Man Down and Cuckoo. Before embarking on a career in comedy, Davies taught drama and English for 13 years at Sandhurst School, Berkshire, and Orleans Park School, Middlesex

This is an edited version of a feature from the 19 June issue of TES. You can read it on your tablet or phone, or by downloading the TES Reader app for Android or iOS. Or pick it up at all good newsagents. 

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