What drives you?
1. How and why did you start in the world of childhood?
I had a teacher when I was eight years old who offered support during my parent's divorce. He helped me discover my love of writing and performing which had a huge impact on me. Then, when I met my wife at college, she persuaded me to become a teacher. She gave me the confidence to fulfil that dream.
2. Do you believe a person is born with certain strengths or can they be learned?
I think you become the person you are through a mix of things, but I believe that the way you deal with the challenges and opportunities in your life depends on the way you see the world and your place in it. Some of that you are born with, but most of that comes from the people and influences around you from childhood.
I am driven to make a difference and to be the best I can be because I am passionate about what I do, and I think that that has a massive impact on a person’s ability to succeed. I also have incredibly supportive family and friends.
3. Describe an educational moment that changed your life.
I told a story in my TED talk about one of my first students, Gary. A child of ten years old, who had a number of profound challenges; he had many special educational needs and found school really difficult.
He was a remarkable young man though and was perhaps the most emotionally intelligent person I've ever met. Despite his own struggles, he always worried about other people and would always be the first to help them.
We met many years after he left school, in fact, he was thirty years old. He had never accomplished much in his formal education; he failed most of his exams, due to his needs but had gone on to build his own business and establish a charity that worked with disadvantaged people in Africa.
Gary proves that academic achievement is not everything and that being a person with emotional intelligence and high levels of resilience can take you a long, long way.
4. Do you believe education can improve the world?
Education must be about helping every young person to realise their own potential. To help them dream and give them a sense of purpose.
It is also important to ensure that education helps young people see their roles and responsibilities as citizens; locally, nationally and globally.
As educators we can make a difference to students and their lives and if we all believe in that, we can definitely have an impact on the world.
One of the great legacies we should hope to leave as teachers, is to help make the world a better place than we found it, through the power of education.
5. What do children need in these times?
They need to be resilient, collaborative, curious and creative.
They need to be comfortable living in times of change and uncertainty and they need to believe that they have a role to play as citizens.
6. If you could travel back in time to the moment when you started your career, what advice would you give yourself?
Don’t be too hard on yourself!
Do your best, don’t see mistakes as failure but as opportunities to learn and develop.
Be curious, never be afraid to ask for help and never, ever stop listening and learning.
8. What is a child?
Technically someone under eighteen years old but to me it is a wonderful mindset… A child is hungry to learn, constantly curious and always prepared to ask challenging questions. They play and know how to have fun.
9. What does a child need to grow? [Or to be happy]
Love, a sense of security and of value. They need to be allowed to make mistakes and to understand the power of learning; of curiosity and of self-discipline.
We must help children to see the importance of their own actions and to value who they are. They need to grow in the belief that they are special and unique but that they have a responsibility to each other and their environment.
We need to encourage children to dream and then help them develop the skills, knowledge and attributes that might help them work towards those dreams.
10. What is the meaning of play for you?
The action of exploring your curiosity, without fear and with a sense of adventure. Exploring life and embracing learning whilst having fun!
11. Tell us about your upcoming projects?
I am just finishing my fourth book. It’s called Education; A Manifesto for Change. It will be published in the summer of 2019, by Bloomsbury.
12. Can you recommend a film, quote or book that inspired you?
I first heard the phrase Carpe Diem (seize the day) in the film Dead Poets’ Society. It stars Robin Williams as an inspirational teacher in a very traditional school. It was one of the most moving and influential films I have ever seen. I urge everyone to watch it and to be inspired by it.