Personally speaking - 'Success is a high. I love graduation'

14th January 2011 at 00:00

Who has been your biggest influence?

My mother, who was an unflappably calm nursery teacher, and still does her own plumbing and carpentry. Another is the mathematics department in the first school I worked in, where the teaching was so boring that I actively went looking for something better. Academically, Pat Mahony. His book Schools for the Boys got me thinking about gender and education.

What has been your career high so far?

Setting up the graduate school at Goldsmiths. Seeing any student succeed is always a high moment. I love graduation.

What was your worst moment in teaching?

Persuading a girl in my form to go back home after she had run away from her violent father. She returned to school a couple of hours later with her head split open. We got her into care that evening, but she was so worried about her dad beating up her mum in her absence that she went back after a few weeks.

Which pupil are you most proud of?

I taught in inner-city schools where so many pupils overcame real difficulties in making something of themselves. The most publicly successful is definitely Renu Mehta, who set up the international charity Fortune Forum. She was always extraordinary, but I never thought she would do anything like that.

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

When I was a student, I was told that for the first few years as a teacher you only go through the motions. After that, you really start to teach. I was horrified at the time, but actually it's pretty accurate.

What is the most outrageous thing a colleague has ever done?

Drag a Year 7 boy backwards across a desk and out of the room in front of a class of students. Utterly horrifying. Even worse was the struggle I had to get anyone to do anything about it, despite several senior managers witnessing the continuing assault in the corridor.

What is the worst excuse you have ever heard?

A pupil told me that she had thumped someone else completely out of the blue because another girl told her to.

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

I nearly became a GP but I decided I would rather help 30 people for an hour at a time than 10.

Carrie Paechter, a former maths teacher, is professor of education at Goldsmiths, University of London. Her latest book is Being Boys, Being Girls.

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