My best teacher - Richard Garrett by Tim Henman

17th April 2015 at 01:00
The former tennis star remembers a teacher who kept him interested when his mind was already on turning pro

Sat in chemistry classes at school, I may as well have been listening to a foreign language. I would be staring out of the window, thinking about sport, with nothing going in. But my economics teacher brought so much life to each class that I actually learned something.

His name was Richard Garrett, and he was a housemaster who taught me at GCSE at Reed's School in Surrey, which I was attending on a scholarship. But, after my GCSEs, I had to return to school for half a term before I was allowed to go pro as a tennis player. This was when he showed what a strong teacher he was, because I had one foot out the door yet still I was learning in his classes.

Mr Garrett had an incredible rapport with all the kids. He had a way of communicating so that you had respect for him as a teacher, and for his authority, but you felt he was fun to be around. That's a cracking balance. He understood that if his students were enjoying what they were doing in class, there was a really good chance they would want to do it again - and do it to the best of their ability.

His teaching method was so much fun that there was an incentive to concentrate. I guess us students thought that although we might not nail Keynesian theory in one sitting, we would probably have a chuckle, so why not listen to what the guy was saying.

Mr Garrett was a very animated chap. He was really personable, with wonderful interaction with the pupils as individuals and with the class as a whole. I don't know where he got his energy from. But he also had a rare trait for a teacher: he was unafraid to laugh at himself. I think that's admirable.

All this meant that he didn't have to fling a piece of chalk at you if you were misbehaving. The respect we had for him meant we basically did behave. Like all teachers, he had a line, but we very rarely crossed it.

In sport, it's easy to quantify success by winning or losing, but what's really important is giving 100 per cent in whatever you do. I think Richard Garrett and I share that philosophy. Give 100 per cent to what you do, and enjoy it. If you do that as a teacher you'll get the same back from pupils.

I still see him a lot. I visit Reed's regularly, working with the school and Richard - who has moved away from economics and towards fundraising - on a charity level. He remains a real driving force behind the school. I actually took part in the school's annual debate this year, which was about the power of sport in helping to overcome childhood disadvantage. Did I take the opportunity to tell him how good a teacher he was? No chance. I wouldn't want to give him a big head.

Tim Henman was talking to Tom Cullen. Henman is an ambassador for Reed's School and he spoke recently at the school's annual Andrew Reed Debate, which asks how society should try to overcome deprivation and disadvantage among young people. This year's theme was the role of sport in changing the lives of disadvantaged children

Come on, Tim!

Tim Henman

Born 6 September 1974

Education Dragon School, Oxford; Reed's School, Cobham, Surrey

Career Former professional tennis player and World No 4. Won 15 ATP titles, 11 as a singles player

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