Richard Fletcher (1998) tells us what he has been doing since leaving St James as a pupil.
I am currently Head of Lower School at St James Senior Boys’ School. I look after the pupils in both Year 7 and Year 8 and assist the Form Tutors in the delivery of outstanding pastoral care. There are approximately 150 pupils in the Lower School and 6 Form Tutors. I also teach Key Stage 3 and 4 Maths and I teach Philosophy in Year 7.
I love communicating with people. I think that this is where I get my energy from. Classroom teaching actually de-stresses me. On a number of occasions I have entered a classroom feeling frustrated or annoyed by something only to come out happy and refreshed. I am passionate about communicating the magic and logic of maths. The simple joy of helping someone to understand a concept is very satisfying.
Facilitating philosophical dialogue is also very fulfilling. Young people have huge questions and these questions need a forum for discussion. Philosophy lessons provide that forum.
I have recently become very interested in the link between pupil health and wellbeing and attainment. The Education Act 2002 states that a good curriculum should “promote the spiritual, moral, cultural, mental and physical development of pupils at the school and of society, and prepare pupils at the school for the opportunities, responsibilities and experiences of later life.” I would like to see schools develop more in depth programmes to help the younger generation be able to see the need in front of them and also meet it. I believe that at St James the dual approach of mindfulness and philosophy does just this. Mindfulness practices allow pupils to gain a clearer sense of what is at their centre and to connect with what the needs are in front of them and the philosophy courses on offer connect them with the needs in society and how they, as a human, relate to society. If I have one ambition, it is probably to see more programmes like this implemented in more schools around the world.
For students looking to get into teaching: go for it! Education and in particular teaching is a brilliant career path. There is not one day that, as a teacher, I have ever questioned my purpose in life. I don’t live for the weekends and I don’t get the Sunday evening blues either. I am very, very lucky.
As a student at St James, I benefited from the emphasis on speaking and performing. I have had to publicly speak many times in my career and the training I received has helped me greatly. Whilst I now regret the fact that I did not fully take advantage of the lessons that I sat through, my time both on the sports field and in the cadet force taught me a thing or two about overcoming perceived limits. This has helped me enormously in my life so far and the lessons learnt on the rugby field and the obstacle course I have found to be transferable into other aspects of life.
Without doubt the periods of quiet time practised during my school days gave me a foundation in self-reflection and self-awareness. This helped me overcome a lengthy and debilitating period of anxiety and depression in my twenties and continues to help me to see things with the appropriate perspective.