Roy Samson had a genuine passion for English. There were other English teachers who were slightly jaded and classes with them felt like a treadmill, going through the motions. But Mr Samson’s classes would start in one way and often finish somewhere completely different – he’d have a sort of plan, but he was completely willing to jettison it if our questions went in a different direction.
It didn’t feel as though Mr Samson was coaching us to pass exams, but as though he imparting passion. We did pass exams, as it happened, but it never felt like that was his goal. It actually felt as though he would have been absolutely delighted if we had all completely failed but left school as people who read and loved books. And actually, at O-level, if you were someone who read books, the chances were that you weren’t going to fail. Mr Samson understood that and his approach wasn’t didactic at all.
My mum was an English teacher too, although not at my school, so she knew Mr Samson through the profession. He was my form tutor and my twin brother was in the same form. Whenever one of us was ill, the other would bring in a note from my mum to explain the other’s absence and Mr Samson would send one back in reply, but it would be written in verse. I remember one of his limericks vividly – not the whole thing but the part in which used the plural “Gormen” to describe my brother and I. It was obvious to me that this was a guy who was enjoying language, which is the point of being an English teacher, right? To pass on that joy of language.
Mr Samson’s passion shone through. Despite being a relatively elderly man, he had a puppyish joy about him. A sort of “Oh good, we’re about to do a lesson!” demeanour, whenever he came into a classroom. It was infectious.
I remember in one of my essays, I was transcribing a section of To Kill A Mockingbird, but then the next sentence supported my point, and the one after that. Eventually I had a 500-word transcription lifted directly from the novel and a 500-word explanation of my point at the end. It wasn’t a spliced-together argument, as it should have been. It was a mess. Anyway, I handed it in knowing full well I’d be marked down for it and, out of nowhere, Mr Samson gave me an A. He told me how brave it was. He championed us whenever we stepped out of the framework in which we’d been taught. He once told me that breaking the rules was good if you knew why you were doing it. What a fantastic thing to tell a kid.
I had a maths teacher, Mr Morgan, who subscribed to that idea too. I remember one question he put on the board; none of the class understood it, but it had three potential answers – 18, 24 and 37. One boy had a stab at it and said 18. He was wrong. I flung my hand up and said 24. Mr Morgan said: “Yes, Gorman. Explain why.” I didn’t know, exactly, but I did know the answer had to be even and the only other even answer was wrong. Instead of giving me a clip round the ear and telling me off for being lazy, Mr Morgan told me it was brilliant. “Never do more work than you’re meant to,” he said. And he meant it, he absolutely meant it. He said I was thinking like a mathematician. If there are shortcuts, take them.
I have very warm memories of that school. It wasn’t the perfect fit for everyone, but it was for me.
Dave Gorman was talking to Tom Cullen. His live show Dave Gorman Gets Straight to the Point* (*The PowerPoint) has now been extended. See www.davegorman.com for details
Born 2 March 1971, Stafford
Education Walton High School, Stafford
Career Comedian and author, perhaps best known for Are You Dave Gorman?, a stage show based on the comedian’s quest to meet people with the same name as him, and Dave Gorman’s Googlewhack Adventure, a show based on Google searches