Personally speaking - 'I got an A for Year 9 mock wedding'

28th May 2010 at 01:00

Who has been your biggest influence?

Probably my mother. She had TB for a year when she was 13. Her father died when she was 14. She went to a convent school in Cork and was the first girl from there to go to university, where she studied medicine.

What has been your career high so far?

Definitely what I'm doing currently. I loved being a head, but now I'm in a position to help thousands of leaders.

What was your worst moment in teaching?

It was teaching practice watched by the external examiner. It was a Friday afternoon and I planned a mock wedding in my Year 9 English lesson. There was a near riot and I had to totally change the lesson, making all the pupils sit with their heads on their desks in silence. I can still remember the sense of failure. The examiner said it was brilliant and gave me an A. I am still confused to this day.

Which pupil are you most proud of?

Edward Coode, the Olympic rower. At the age of 13 he was not a natural with a pen and we had to get him through tough entrance exams for Eton. He was really determined - and made it by the skin of his teeth. To see him as an Olympic champion was amazing.

What is the best piece of advice you have been given?

Understand - and accept - what you are good at and determine what you really want to achieve. Then get on with it and don't make any excuses for yourself.

Describe the most outrageous thing a colleague has done.

Walk up to a pupil and cancel a punishment I had given. When I complained, he said I wasn't being fair and brushed me aside. Fortunately, the head completely backed me and the punishment stood.

What would you have done if you hadn't become a teacher?

I would have worked as a lawyer or a priest.

What do you do on a Friday evening?

Open a bottle of Hardys and practise my saxophone - I am doing my grade eight this year and have just bought a luscious new instrument that flatters my playing. I then watch another episode of Boston Legal on DVD.

What is the worst excuse you have ever heard?

"If you met his family you would realise why it would be crazy to expect him to do any better than this."

Fergal Roche spent 16 years as a teacher and headteacher in South East England and is now managing director of The Key, an information and guidance service for school leaders.

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