My big question: Is there intelligent life elsewhere?

13th June 2008 at 01:00
Dom Murphy, 46, is acting headteacher at Woodford Halse Church of England Primary School in Daventry, Northamptonshire
Dom Murphy, 46, is acting headteacher at Woodford Halse Church of England Primary School in Daventry, Northamptonshire

What is the best advice you've been given?

Don't be afraid to make mistakes.

And your proudest achievement?

Making children believe in themselves.

What do you wish you'd known when you started teaching that you know now?

That catching children being good and praising them is much more effective than waiting until they're naughty and telling them off.

Share a secret about teaching that the wider world doesn't yet know

You can build a complete set of football cards through skilful confiscation. More seriously, treat children as people and they will respect you.

What one thing would change your life for the better?

Merging and applying the educational philosophies of Kurt Hahn, advocate of outdoors, discovery-based learning, and A.S. Neill, founder of Summerhill School, who believed that children developed best when they were happy and had a sense of personal freedom.

What's the last book you read?

A Land of Two Halves by Joe Bennett, a hitch-hiking travelogue of New Zealand. It combined the amiability and sense of the incongruous of Bill Bryson and the wit of Clive James.

And the song of your life?

"The World Turned Upside Down", written by Leon Rosselman and performed by The Oysterband and Billy Bragg among others. It ought to become our national anthem.

Who do you most admire?

Steve Ovett, the most naturally talented runner this country has produced.

Who would play you in the film of your life?

Mr Magoo. Or possibly Ben Elton.

Where is your favourite place?

Either on a river in my kayak, or on Blakeney Point, off the Norfolk coast.

Where in the world would you most like to visit?

The Southland of New Zealand.

If you could meet anyone who would it be?

So many people. Robert Owen? Charles Dickens? William Cobbett? I think it would have to be the three grandparents I never knew.

Apart from the job, what three things are the most important to you?

Family, music and canoeing.

What's the big question about life that you would most like answered?

Is there intelligent life elsewhere in the universe?

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