Letters from a perfect imperfectionist: In praise of teachers

Back to my old school last week, now Burnage Academy for Boys, to “inspire” 400 pupils with a rapid series of clips from The Island with Bear Grylls and the message that 800 million people wake up every morning with little or no food and, unlike me and my fellow islanders, no prospects of any food or escape from their situation.

The presentation was hard-hitting and the total engagement of the audience was matched, in part, by the astonishment on the faces of the teachers, who had clearly been given no notice of who I was or what I had to say.

We shall see whether the result is further invitations or howls of protest.

A normal delivery day for me then.

To arrive at the gates of my former secondary school, precisely 45 years after I last walked out, was a very strange experience.

My first surprise was to find that not a single brick of the building I attended remains – the place was bulldozed at the turn of our new century and the weather-proof burgundy Accrington brick and slate-grey tiles have been superseded by a scattering of cubist steel and glass boxes that look more like a Nordic art gallery than a seat of learning (such is the fashion nowadays).

What used to be a line of tennis courts is now a sports hall and a car park.

The main building consists of three stories opening into a central atrium – the sense of light, space and innovation are quite exhilarating, compared to the dark corridors, dingy classrooms and dusty traditions of my early Grammar School years.

The 900 strong student population reflects the demographic of the post code and the diversity of modern UK life.

Headmaster Mr. Fenn and his team of around 150 staff have transformed the school over the last 15 years from a problem hotspot back to a brand to be proud of, infecting all of the students with a possibility virus in a way that can be an example to others.

It’s a long time since I attended a Parent/Teacher evening and my trip was a reminder of the debt we all owe to those who choose teaching as a career.

The commitment is incredible – I chatted to a PE teacher who attended the school as a student three years below me in the 60’s and is about to retire after 37 years on the payroll.

In every direction, as I enjoyed a brief tour, I saw energy, appetite for knowledge and pride in achievement.

A completely uplifting experience.

A tribute here to the volunteers at Mosaic – the charity who invited me in.

Take a look at their website and the work that they do.

A little reminder to us all that when you put something back, you often get more out in return.

“These “letters” are the personal observations of me, Chris Barrow and are not intended to reflect the views of 7connections and its team members, they just give me permission to publish here on the basis that they can keep an eye on me, a bit like a mad relative at a wedding reception. I’m likely to upset the sensitive and outrage the sensible – if you fall into either of those camps then read at your peril.”


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Chris Barrow

Chris Barrow has been active as a consultant, trainer and coach to the UK dental profession for over 20 years. As a writer, his blog enjoys a strong following and he is a regular contributor to the dental press. Naturally direct, assertive and determined, he has the ability to reach conclusions quickly, as well as the sharp reflexes and lightness of touch to innovate, change tack and push boundaries. In 2014 he appeared as a “castaway” in the first season of the popular reality TV show “The Island with Bear Grylls”. His main professional focus is as Coach Barrow, providing coaching and mentorship to independent dentistry.