My best teacher

Pamela Coleman

Being bullied as a new boy could have tainted the Strictly Come Dancing star's perception of school, but a good teacher put him on the right track

Mr Kerswell was deputy head at Grimsdyke Junior School in Hatch End, Harrow, and I'll always remember him because of the calm and fair way he dealt with a difficult situation on my first day. I was nine, my family had just moved house and I'd left my friends behind in my old school in Wealdstone.

I was apprehensive about going somewhere I didn't know anyone and where the other kids had already formed friendships. Being a new child at school, you stand out and are an easy target for being picked on, and that's exactly what happened to me. In the playground on that first day one boy in particular (joined by two or three of his mates) started name-calling and bullying me.

I was not only the new kid on the block but I also had a bit of a suntan and they didn't take to me. News of the scuffle got back to the teacher on duty and we were all marched in to see Mr Kerswell. He spoke to us all together and explained that fighting was not acceptable and would not be tolerated.

What struck me was the way he handled the situation. He didn't shout; he didn't frighten the boys. He simply explained in a calm and objective manner, on a basic level to small boys who did not know much about the world, that they should really try to help anyone new to integrate. He also warned them that if the bullying continued, stronger measures would be taken and parents informed.

The next day Mr Kerswell met my parents and listened patiently to their concerns. My father is Indian, from Guyana, and my mother is English; he reassured them that the school was totally against bullying and that racism would not be tolerated. He promised to keep an eye on me. His interest was genuine and my parents were impressed by his determination to nip trouble in the bud.

I soon settled down and fitted happily into school life. I was never actually taught by Mr Kerswell but we shared a common interest in sports and saw a lot of each other. Football was my big passion then, cricket came later and we certainly didn't do any dancing at school.

Everyone respected Mr Kerswell. He dressed smartly, always in a shirt and tie. He was about 5ft 8in with dark hair and probably in his late thirties.

He was particularly good at projecting his voice when necessary and he spoke with authority. But it was his general demeanour that was so impressive. He could be your friend and joke and smile with you, but he also knew when he had to be firm.

We could tell what was required by the tone of his voice. I think when you're dealing with children of that age you need to achieve a delicate balance between making them feel at ease and helping them learn, but also knowing when to harden up to get respect, make sure they are standing in line and not talking, and that sort of thing.

The ringleader of the bullies and I never became friends but I was not taunted again. The way Mr Kerswell handled that potentially difficult situation was a good lesson to learn early in life Mark Ramprakash, the Surrey cricket captain, has recently become better known as the Saturday night sex symbol of Strictly Come Dancing. He was talking to Pamela Coleman

Register to continue reading for free

It only takes a moment and you'll get access to more news, plus courses, jobs and teaching resources tailored to you

Pamela Coleman

Latest stories

Teacher training: Why one size doesn't fit all

Teacher development: why one size doesn't fit all

Teacher learning must be planned in the same way as their students’ is – with appropriate time, scaffolding and support all given proper consideration, writes Sam Jones
Sam Jones 14 Jun 2021