Mr Long by Ben Fogle

5th January 2018 at 00:00
The TV presenter and reality show survivor remembers a PE teacher who provided him with ‘the perfect mix of sympathy and reality’ at boarding school

The most significant teacher for me was Mr Steve Long, who was my housemaster at Bryanston School in Dorset. He was a sports teacher and a former Olympic hockey player. Unsurprisingly, he taught me hockey.

I was a hopeless sportsman and hockey was no different. But Mr Long was a sportsman at heart and he took teamwork seriously. It was a breath of fresh air to have someone who wasn’t entirely focused on academics. As a housemaster, he was amazing. He was very chilled and didn’t have that academic superiority that some teachers unintentionally exude. He led by example. His main priorities were teamwork and care.

Bryanston is a boarding school and I suffered terrible homesickness after I started there. To make matters worse, I started a year late, at age 14. This meant that I was a year behind everyone else, who had already spent that time making friends. Children can be quite tribal. I wasn’t part of anyone’s group and I had to find a way to fit in, to find a tribe or group that would accept me.

 

Mr Long was able to help me through this time, but he did so in a sensible way. He was very caring, but also told me to pull myself together. It was the perfect mix of sympathy and reality. He lived in a cottage on the school estate with his family and he would often invite me over for Sunday lunch, or to spend the afternoon with he and his wife and children. He was happy to share his home environment with me.

Powerful influence

When he taught me, Mr Long was probably in his forties. He had short grey hair and always wore sports gear, usually a track suit.

Bryanston was a very theatrical and liberal school, and I had dreams of becoming an actor. I was in plenty of stage productions and even took a play to the Edinburgh Fringe.

Mr Long was very good at encouraging us to be the best at whatever inspired us. He obviously erred towards sport, but he encouraged us in all disciplines. I remember him advising me and other pupils to be ourselves and to trust in our decision making. I’ve never been a particularly confident person, but this powerful advice very much still influences me today.

He was a well-liked teacher all round and taught me for the duration of my time at Bryanston, which was four years. I finished school in 1992.

I still keep in touch with pupils from Bryanston – some of my best friends are from the school. Sadly, I didn’t keep in touch with Mr Long. I haven’t seen him for many years, but if he is reading this, then I’d love to buy him a pint.


Ben Fogle is a champion for Ordnance Survey’s GetOutside campaign, a role which involves motivating the public to get outside more. He was speaking to Adeline Iziren

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