Today is World Teachers’ Day, according to UNESCO, and a large number of Microsoft bloggers (and there’s a large number of Microsoft bloggers!) are writing about the teacher that made the difference to them. Although I normally keep a British-stiff-upper-lip about this kind of thing, I realised that I had probably never written about the impact that one particular teacher had on my life and career.
My most memorable teacher was Mr French (I later discovered, as you do after school, that he actually had a first name – Harry), who was an art teacher in The William Farr C of E School in Lincolnshire. I was in Year 7, and doing the usual thing a pupil does – rushing between different classrooms every 40 minutes (why do we still do that?); trying to stay ahead of my homework deadlines; carting piles of text books; and worrying about getting to school every day on time. (Hmm, a bit like today, except now I rush between meetings; try to stay ahead of project deadlines; cart a laptop and notebooks; and try not to get caught in the daily commuting traffic).
And then I started Art, and very quickly joined the Film Club – a group of enthusiastic 12/13 year-olds, starting to study for an extra-curricular CSE. Harry French was the driving force, a teacher with a real passion for learning through engagement in visual media (multimedia in those days meant 8mm film). It was the first time that I’d every worked in a project team, trying to learn how to collaborate to deliver a single output, and all the time learning the new skills of film making. I learnt animation, lighting (don’t mention the day I left the shutters on the switched-on lamps for an hour!), camera work, direction, dubbing, and the ancient art of cutting and splicing. It culminated in two award winning films – one on the Humber ferries, made the week before they were closed, and another on the man who wound the Lincoln Cathedral clock way up in the tower (just weeks before he unexpectedly retired, and the clock was electrified). I remember the trip down to London – a big thing for a boy from rural Lincolnshire who thought Derbyshire was a long way to go – to receive our award at the Cafe Royale from Lord something-or-other.
What Harry French gave me was an enthusiasm for learning about new things, experimenting without fear of failure, and an interest in new technology (in those days, 8mm film was pretty exciting technology to a 12-year old) which I’ve obviously been able to exploit throughout my career.
So thanks Mr French, you’re the man who got me started on the journey to where I am today!