My best teacher - Noddy Holder

18th March 2011 at 00:00
An ex-Army man who ruled with a rod of iron comes in at No1 for the Slade singer

I loved school. I had a great time at my infant and junior schools and passed my 11-plus, so for a year I went to a grammar school. This was when the comprehensive system was just being adopted, so after a year I went to a new comprehensive, TP Riley School in Walsall, which was one of the first in the country.

It was a fabulous school. We had our own swimming pool, gymnasium and playing fields - we had every facility going. I was pretty academic: I got six O-levels and I started A-levels. I was heading towards a teaching career but rock and roll took over my life.

I had my good and bad days. In my early years at school I was very well-behaved but when I entered my teens I discovered rock and roll and I grew my hair long and rebelled against the system.

But I remember school very fondly, and I remember most of my teachers with a lot of fondness. The one that sticks out in my mind was not necessarily the best teacher, but he was a real disciplinarian.

I was doing history O-level and for the first year of the course we had a teacher who was not very good. Discipline was all over the place so we didn't really learn anything that year. In the second year we had Mr Dickenson, who was very strict but really knew his stuff.

He was ex-Army and a lieutenant or something like that in the Army cadets at school, and he ruled with a rod of iron. He knocked us into shape, though, and got us through our O-level. He also started off my interest in history - I still read history books now.

He was a terror as a teacher: he was so strict. There was corporal punishment in those days and if you did anything wrong you got punished, a stick across your backside or your hand. Everything had to be done to get us through our O-level.

He taught us strictly the facts. He had to get two years' work into one year so it was facts, facts, facts. He made it understandable, though, and put a twist on it so you could relate to it.

He was not a tall man but he was rotund. He was always well-dressed and had very smart shoes and his voice was very authoritative. He didn't mess about but he had a good sense of humour, although he didn't let it affect his sense of discipline.

The biggest disappointment for me at school was that I never had the chance to go on stage. I had been singing in working men's clubs since I was seven but I was never given a part in any of the school shows. It was always the same pupils who got the chance. I have never forgotten that. Maybe that is one of the things that drives me on.

I was playing in bands at school and I found that more and more I wanted to be a rock and roll star so I gave up my A-level course half way through. My dad had a window cleaning business and cleaned the windows at school. Mr Dickenson gave him a lot of stick, saying he should never have let his boy leave school.

In those days, being a musician was the lowest of the low, unless you were a classical musician, but my mum and dad had seen me play and saw how much my heart was in it, so they let me leave school, although they didn't like it. When I finally became successful and was travelling the world I used to send postcards back and my dad used to take them into school and say, "I told you so".

Noddy Holder took part in Teach First Week earlier this month, where figures from the worlds of business, politics and entertainment teach a lesson in a school in challenging circumstances. He was talking to Nick Morrison.

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