When did you start teaching and what subject did you teach?
I started teaching in 1980 at DSMC teaching English. I was a teaching student at DSMC in the English department and I was extremely lucky to be offered a job afterwards. The English department was wonderful. Tom Fraser, who recently died, was my Head of Department. I ended my career as Housemaster of Beauly house when I left DSMC. John Rintoul and Jock Richardson were part of the department too and I have very fond memories of working together.
Tell us one of your favourite memories of the school
Like many pupils, one of my favourite memories is the annual trip to Carbisdale, despite not particularly enjoying outdoor education. The weeks away with the third year were wonderful and the memories are lovely to re-visit.
You went on to teach at Heriot’s and became Principal, what were the biggest challenges of taking on such a role?
I worked in two schools, Stewart’s Melville College for 11 years and Heriot’s for 27 years. The balance is that I taught English at Heriot’s for 11 years before getting promoted into management after becoming head of the Senior School at Heriot’s. I loved being in the classroom and I’ve always been very pupil-centric so it was all about the young people. People should go into teaching if they both really like supporting young people and they really like their subject. I’ve made hundreds of friends out of that process. I’m still in touch with pupils I taught 40 years ago. For example, today is the birthday of a very favourite former pupil who I think is turning 53 today. We have stayed in contact since they left school.
You retired in 2017, what have you been doing with your retirement?
I wrote a book! I blog about a wide range of subjects, including my three-weekly articles from the Scotsman and all sorts of other subjects such as travel, the bin strike and I share a lot of personal anecdotes. My blog can be found at www.ahouseinjoppa.wordpress.com. The blog is approaching it’s 100,000th visit!
You mentioned a book, tell us about it. What was your inspiration, what’s the focus and do you feature any anecdotes about your time at Stewart’s Melville College?
It was a book about my career in teaching. It’s not intended as a teaching manual or a focus on education. The purpose is to make people laugh and for me to reflect on my career. I deal with a lot that’s quite difficult about teaching. I was very lucky to have a significant publisher in Scotland (Birlinn) who was interested in publishing the book and their support has been fantastic. The book is called ‘Is there a Pigeon in the Room? My Life in Schools’ and I think it’s quite widely available. I have tried to make it an easy, light book to read. And yes, there are plenty of stories of my time at Stewart’s Melville College!