Personally speaking - 'My Year 9s locked me in a cupboard'

4th February 2011 at 00:00
Heath Monk was an English and drama teacher for six years before becoming CEO of Future Leaders, an organisation that helps to transform teachers into inspirational heads for challenging schools

Who has been your biggest influence?

An English teacher, John Hargreaves. It's down to him that I went to Oxford to study English literature. He had incredible energy and passion for everything he did - a real inspiration.

What has been your career high so far?

My best moments at work are when I'm able to help someone - either a Future Leader participant or one of my team - achieve something they hadn't thought possible.

What was your worst moment in teaching?

In my first week as an NQT, a Year 9 asked for a spare copy of the novel we were reading. When I went to get it, the class locked me in the book cupboard for about 10 minutes. I didn't know whether to bang on the door and demand my freedom or wait until they got bored.

Which pupil are you most proud of?

A couple of years ago, I coached my daughter Pippa for the Kent 11-plus maths test. She scored 139 out of a possible 140, although she says I've never let her forget the one that got away.

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

Don't think too much. When I played for my school cricket team, I would get so concerned about technique that I'd forget to just react to the ball. There are times when it's best to let instinct take over.

What would you be if you hadn't become a teacher?

I had a vague desire to become a criminal barrister, but I think that was the result of seeing too many courtroom dramas. I wasn't very focused on what I would do after leaving university. I spent most of my time playing football and singing in a comedy rock band, neither of which yielded any serious career opportunities.

What do you do on a Friday evening?

Sleep. I'm usually exhausted by the end of the week, so my ideal Friday evening is to cook dinner for my wife, watch The Apprentice and be in bed by 9.30pm.

What is the worst excuse you've ever heard?

I taught international literature as part of the International Baccalaureate. One of my class failed to hand in an essay on Camus as he was "suffering from existential angst". At least he got something from reading The Outsider.

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