Personally speaking - 'I stormed out of class - into a cupboard'

24th September 2010 at 01:00
Dr Bernard Trafford has been a headteacher for 20 years and has led the Royal Grammar School in Newcastle since 2008. He was chairman of the Headmasters' and Headmistresses' Conference from 2007-09

What has been your career high so far?

There have been different things at different career stages. When teaching music, great adventures such as conducting Elgar's The Dream of Gerontius with 150 children forming the chorus, school jazz spectaculars and choirs touring the US and Italy. Making it to headship - twice and hardly able to believe it either time. As a head you don't experience the same individual highs: instead, you have the incalculable privilege of running schools where pupils constantly excel and surprise themselves.

What was your worst moment in teaching?

I stormed into a chemistry lesson to tell off a naughty class. I did it magnificently, turned on my heel and exited - unfortunately into the stock cupboard from where I had to reverse and scuttle out the door. The kids tried not to laugh; the teacher nearly hurt herself suppressing hysterics.

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

The Zen commandment: "Don't just do something, sit there." We're always being pushed to the Action Man approach, to intervene and sort things out immediately. It's rarely the best way.

What is the most outrageous thing a colleague has done?

Forcibly held open the doors on the underground to allow a party of 70 pupils to get on the rush-hour train, in defiance of the driver who kept trying to slam them on him. It was Samson versus Transport for London. Heroic, magnificent, hilarious.

What do you do on a Friday evening?

If there is no school-related event on (and there seem to be a lot), my wife and I split a nice bottle of wine, enjoy some TV therapy and have an early night.

What car do you drive?

My mid-life crisis is a 1997 Mercedes SL320, a classic soft-top and (I'm rather proud) a credit crunch bargain bought for next to nothing in 2009.

What was the last book you read?

If the Dead Rise Not by Philip Kerr. Kerr's brilliant creation is Bernie Gunther, a cop with a conscience spanning Nazi and post-war Germany. Genius.

What is the worst excuse you have ever heard?

"The train was late because the driver stopped to get out and help a cow out of the canal ..."

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