My best teacher

14th May 2004 at 01:00
You can teach history as a rather boring set of facts in chronological order or, like Mr Field, you can tell a story in an almost filmic way

Portrait by Christian de Sousa

My best teacher was Mr Field, my history teacher for GCSE at Highgate Wood school in Crouch End, north London. When you teach history, arguably more than any subject - even English - your ability as an orator and storyteller has a great impact on how good a teacher you are.

That was what was so fantastic about him. You can teach history as a rather boring set of facts in chronological order, or you can tell a story in an almost filmic way. That was what he did. Some teachers are too strict and put their class on edge. Others are too lenient and the kids take liberties. He was one of those teachers who had the balance exactly right between being a good bloke but also being someone you could get on the wrong side of. He wore a suit and tie but he wasn't one of those over-dressed masters; he was affable.

When you get respect for the right reasons it opens the door for a teacher to impart wisdom. I always think the best teachers are those who are capable of letting their guard down if the situation dictates it, and putting their guard up if it's appropriate. Those who get respect get a good deal more of the children's attention. When a teacher is really good, children will forget they are in a class.

I was lucky enough to be pretty good at all my subjects, but history happened to be my favourite, and history and politics were my specialist subjects. I still like them today, although I don't get much time to study them.

A fairly large proportion of what Mr Field taught us for GCSE was modern 20th-century history - the Russian revolution, the First World War, the Second World War, the evolution of the welfare state, and the reconstruction of Britain - all of which is pretty lucid in my memory.

At 16 I left Highgate Wood and went to University College School in Hampstead to do my A-levels and I can't remember the subjects I was taught nearly so well. I came from one of those environments where it was expected that I would go to university; my mother was a teacher and my uncle is an academic, so it kind of runs in the family. But you do need teachers who truly love their subject and enable you to live it vicariously through them and encourage you to enjoy it. I can't remember Mr Field actually telling me I had the ability to go on to university, but he definitely had a lot to do with my going there.

I studied law at the London School of Economics. If you are planning to be self- employed, I think having a degree to fall back on is invaluable. I had three years where I could focus on what was my passion, music, but it also gave me the confidence to know that if it didn't work out there was something else I could do.

I was friends at school with Rollo Armstrong (Dido's brother who went on to form the band Faithless) and the first parties I promoted were with him. My nickname was given to me by a fellow DJ called Norman Jay. We went through a period of promoting parties together. These were illegal warehouse parties, and because I was a law student at the time it was always me who had to confront the police. I would put on a posh accent and tell them the party was just for me and my law student pals. So Norman started calling me Judge Jules and the name stuck.

DJ-ing is like a lot of entertainment jobs; it's only the privileged few who can survive and earn enough to put food on the table. Actors, artists, sports people usually have to supplant their income with another job. So that's another good reason for having a degree.

It's possible for teachers to forget just how important they are in terms of the overall influence they have and whether or not their pupils go on to higher education. A good teacher can make the difference.

DJ Judge Jules was talking to Harvey McGavin

The story so far

1965 Born Julius O'Riordan, north London

1977 Highgate Wood school, north London

1982 University College School, Hampstead

1984 Studies law at the London School of Economics

1987 Starts DJ-ing on Kiss FM, the pirate station that went legal in 1990

1997 Moves to Radio 1, where he hosts a Saturday evening show from 5-7pm

1998 Voted third best DJ in world in DJ magazine

2001 Wins best radio DJ award for second year running at Dance Star awards

2003 Hosts Judgment Sunday in Ibiza; voted best trance night in Ibiza Dance awards

2004 Supports the Government's Aimhigher campaign ( to get more people into university and college

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