Earlier this week at BYT HQ, we were fortunate enough to sit down with one of our senior tutors James Glasse so as to ruminate a little on his highly sought after views on today’s education.
Formerly Senior Master at one of London’s leading independent preparatory schools, James has been Head of Classics and has taught Latin, English, Mandarin Chinese and humanities at a number of top independent schools. A Mandarin Chinese speaker, he is a published author having written for more than thirty publications including TES Global, the Times, Independent and Guardian and has authored books for the Economist Intelligence Unit and Financial Times Business Information. He has also published numerous management and business related reports on a published and bespoke basis.
Education is Life by James Glasse ©2016
For me, teaching is as much a spiritual journey as anything else. There is nothing new under the sunand the ancients knew this well — Plato and Socrates would tailor their teaching approaches to the individual and one of the very best teachers I ever met gave me great advice in my first year — simply get to know your pupils and they will follow you across the proverbial Rubicon. As well as getting the best results that they are capable of, perhaps more importantly, they will enjoy the journey.
Great teachers are caring adults who believe in the next generation and bring out the best in their students. They know that learning is a natural process that develops spontaneously and that their hugely privileged role is to act as a catalyst, enabling their pupils to become free independentthinkers embarking on a lifelong voyage of discovery. When I look back to the great teachers in my own life I remember courageous, kind, honest, compassionate individuals all of whom saw something in me and who helped to light that spark. I earnestly hope that I will have left a similar legacy.
I guess that all teachers have their Eureka moments. One of my most profound was when one of my pupils — Sarah (not her real name), a profoundly dyslexic child in year five, stood up at a creative writing conference and asked if she could perform her poem in front of an audience of some fifteen hundred people. As her English teacher, I have to confess to a frisson of nerves as English did not come easily to her. There were parents and children from at least ten schools in the crowded auditorium. Yet I need not have doubted her as Sarah’s impassioned rendition of her own highly original and beautiful poem met with a standing ovation.
For me, teaching is all about realising that I am but a tiny part of something truly great — the magnificent venture that is education. I am not so much a teacher, rather an awakener — what better role could there be than to enjoy the massive privilege of fostering a joy of learning? As I look at myself in the shaving mirror, I ask myself the question: ‘Am I enabling those I teach to find out who they really are?’ Albert Einstein wrote that ‘It is the supreme art of the teacher to awaken joy in creative expression and knowledge.’
None of this is new, yet I fear that in an era when individual freedoms have become imperilled by big data many of our institutions seem to have forgotten the wisdom of the ancients. Emperor of Rome and one of the greatest philosophers who has ever lived, Marcus Aurelius, wrote in his Meditations:
‘The happiness of your life depends upon the quality of your thoughts.’
That and being the best that you can be and enabling those around you to do the same.
As always we’d love to hear from you at BYT, whether it’s tutors, university entry, exam preparation or small group learning in our centres we’re consistently looking for new ways to share our collective expertise and further contribute to the on-going discussion in education today.