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Personally speaking - 'My mother hit a boy with a Bible'

Who has been your biggest influence?

Two extraordinary women, Jean Tether and Jean Holm, who taught me theology and religious studies, one in the sixth form and one in college. They taught it as a rigorous discipline and gave me a very good academic training.

What is your career high so far?

It would have to be now, because of the fundamental changes taking place in the school system. The challenges for church schools are significant but the possibilities if we get it right are great.

What was your worst moment in teaching?

I was teaching at a girls' school in Manchester and it had been snowing heavily. As I got into the classroom I saw the windows were open and boys from another school were throwing snowballs into the room. It was a complete mess but once we got it cleared up the girls said it was really hot so we opened the windows. Before I knew it there were snowballs flying around again. I went home thinking I was never going back in a school again.

What is the best piece of advice you have been given?

"Every single person is a child of God and deserves the best there is."

What is the most outrageous thing a colleague has done?

My mother was a teacher and she had a boy who was messing around and threw his Bible on the floor. Her response was to clout him around the head with her Bible, saying: "That is no way to treat the word of God."

What would you be if you hadn't become a teacher?

I always wanted to be a priest - I used to want to be the first Anglican woman Pope. I was only ordained recently, but if I could do it all again that is what I would have done.

What do you do on a Friday evening?

I'm quite a television fan. I love ITV3 because that gives you all the re-runs of Morse, Wycliffe, Lewis - I love all those detective dramas.

What is the worst excuse you have ever heard?

It was really an excuse for me not having a good RE lesson. There was a knock on the door and a boy said he had come to give one of my class his ferret back. He had borrowed it for an English oral and we ended up talking about ferrets for the rest of the lesson. I learnt more about those kids' lives in that lesson than I ever had before.

Jan Ainsworth taught RE in secondary schools in Cambridge, Lancashire and Manchester before becoming diocesan director of education in Manchester for the Church of England. She is now the CofE's chief education officer.

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