My Best Teacher - Reggie Yates

16th October 2009 at 01:00
Teachers were also friends to this radio star. They taught him how to find common ground and communicate with all kinds of people

I look back on my primary school with massively fond memories. We had an amazing headteacher, I made fantastic friends that I have still got, and my school years were brilliant. It helped that I have always been a social person.

I went to Thornhill Primary in Islington (north London) and Sue Seifert was the headteacher. She was an incredible person and I loved her to bits. Sometimes headteachers are the sort of people who sit in an ivory tower, but she used to come into the classroom and she had a relationship with every child and every parent. The older you get the more you realise that is an amazing skill.

We were made to address all the teachers by their first name, so I just knew my favourite teachers as Nicky and Beverley. I had them for my last two years there but I never knew their surnames. They were inspiring in a way that they felt like Mum but at the same time a mate, and it was great to have that sort of relationship.

We could have a laugh and a joke with them, we could chat about last night's telly, you could talk with them about stuff that didn't have anything to do with school. As a parent that is something I would want to establish with my children: being respected, but also having that sort of relationship with your child.

Nicky and Beverley were amazing women. I think they're both still about the borough and I still see Nicky every now and then. They were relatively young, in their late 20s or early 30s, and they got on with my parents.

Those years, when you are about to go into secondary school, are when you learn a lot about yourself, and it helped my relationship with people in authority. You know you are never going to get on with everybody but if you can find common ground it makes it easier. In my radio show I'm talking to millions of people, from all walks of life, and it is about being able to find that common ground, the references people are using.

My school years stripped away the typical teacher-pupil relationship and you constantly thought to yourself: "Ok, this is somebody who is normal, who is a person, who has a name; not just an authority figure."

It's also a time when you start to be aware of social situations and your surroundings. The only adults you know when you are young are your parents and uncles and aunts, and when you're learning how to respond to people who aren't your family the closest thing to that is your teachers. Having a relationship with them that is open and almost becomes a friendship changes the way you look at them entirely. It is a really small thing but it is amazingly helpful.

By secondary school I had mastered the art of common ground and became really good friends with all of my teachers straight away. I would meet teachers and within the first two or three lessons I would be on really good terms with them.

I was a teacher's best and worst nightmare. I was the kid who could do everything to a great standard but at the same time I had a million and one things to say. The teachers would be mad at me for messing around but I would get the work done.

I don't remember ever being in trouble. I was brought up to respect my elders but I was always conscious of not getting into trouble because I started on television when I was seven years old and if I misbehaved my teachers wouldn't let me have the time off.

Primary school, secondary school, college - my entire school years were great. It was being able to make friends and learn a lot about yourself and just meeting new people that I liked.

I grew up on a council estate and most of the kids at school were from similar backgrounds. But one of the great things about Islington is you have council estates and million-pound houses on the same street, and that familiarity doesn't breed contempt, it breeds integration. At primary and secondary school there were people from massively different walks of life, all hanging around with each other. I would go to a friend's house and be blown away because they had a garden.

At secondary I went to Central Foundation Boys' School and I had a fantastic art teacher, Miss O'Neill. She was amazing. She allowed me to do what I wanted to do but at the same time brought it back to the curriculum. I ended up going to art college and was going to be a graphic designer but I took a year out and everything changed.

  • Reggie Yates is a DJ, presenter and actor. He presents the Radio 1 Chart Show and has appeared in `Doctor Who'. He appears in the drama series `Trinity' on ITV2 on Sundays. He was talking to Nick Morrison.

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