My best teacher - Jake Humphrey

16th April 2010 at 01:00
A dedicated head of year steered the Formula 1 presenter back on track

If I had to define the five years I spent in secondary school, at Framington Earl High in Norwich, I would have to be completely honest about my behaviour. I wasn't particularly naughty, cheeky, lazy or rude towards teachers - I simply didn't get a buzz out of studying. Like any uninterested pupil, I didn't apply myself as much as teachers would have liked.

There are some people who have oodles of brain and little common sense - and, while I'm not stupid, my common sense outweighs everything. Even at school, I felt ready to begin working. That environment suited me more than education did.

This was reflected when I did two weeks' work experience on a newspaper. I worked in the telesales department and was described as the "best (placement) they ever had". My teachers were surprised. "Is this the same kid?" they asked.

From my perspective, I always thought that what I did in class was enough - and clearly it wasn't. At the end of Year 10, my overall report was bad. My mum, who is a teacher, places a large amount of emphasis on getting good grades, so on the front of my notepad she wrote for the teachers' attention: "Following Jacob's very disappointing results, please inform us of all the work that he hasn't done up to standard. Over the summer holidays we'll ensure that he does it."

So, for six weeks, up to 11 o'clock every morning, I wasn't allowed out until I had fulfilled the relevant criteria.

The following term, Dave Maxwell, the head of year, began scrutinising my development. An incredibly positive, calming and encouraging person, he was one of those teachers who you felt was on your side. Not only could you trust him, but he retained faith with those who weren't academically astute. If you had an issue, by speaking to Dave everything would be OK. If I picture him now, he always had a smile and didn't look dissimilar to (former England international) Sir Trevor Brooking.

That extra arm around the shoulder is very important. Often, the clever kids steal the headlines and class time. Sometimes those, like me, who are not thick but have other priorities, get lost in the system. Dave made sure that didn't happen.

For example, in Year 11 my dad would come with me to his office every Friday morning to discuss what had happened that week in my lessons. If the meeting went well, I would be on cloud nine; if not, I'd be in trouble. Those sessions worked: from having pretty poor mock results, my GCSE grades improved considerably.

Now I'm a TV presenter, I can see the benefits of research and preparation. But sitting at school and revising lines of information didn't appeal. Dave emphasised the importance of having pride in what you do, a trait I carried into the world of work.

I often think: "I'm 31, I've done amazing things, yet there are certain people from my past who are still important in terms of seeking the inspiration to do what I do."

Dave was one. By just taking the time out of his day to work with me, to guide me, I realised that there must be something worth helping in the first place.

Jake Humphrey fronts Formula 1 coverage for the BBC and was a children's television presenter. For a Formula 1 calendar, visit He was talking to Rob Maul.

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