We hear from the men and women at the front of the class about what inspired – and continues to inspire – them to take up teaching. Here’s the view from the staff room at Haberdashers’ Monmouth School

Ian Lawrence (Chemistry department)

What motivated you to take up teaching?
I served on many tours of duty throughout the world and observed the effects of conflict and war. Inevitably, children were often innocent bystanders entangled in events outside their immediate control. However gloomy, depressing or frightening my deployment was, it was actually the local children who often inspired me.

In Gorazde I assisted in reopening a school that had been closed for three years due to Serb sniper fire murdering children as they set out for school. My Regiment went on to provide books and stationery to the school. I saw the huge difference that a school made to a whole community.

In Kabul, Afghanistan, I visited a school for the blind where resources were minimal but despite that, the children spoke of great optimism. The vulnerability, resilience and courage of children appeared to be a common theme wherever I was deployed.  It was such children who inspired me to become a teacher.

Ian Lawrence

What brought you to and keeps you at your school?
I loved the Army, but during my last tour of duty in Helmand, I knew that I wanted to become a teacher and ‘put something back’.  I knew the Wye Valley was peaceful and very beautiful. Out of the blue, I decided to phone the Headmaster of Monmouth School and ask him if he thought I had what it takes to be a teacher.

I subsequently came down to visit and chatted with him in his study. I didn’t realise it at the time, but it was the most important call I have ever made. We got on well. Within a very short space of time I found myself employed at Monmouth.

As ever, it is the boys themselves who keep me here. They keep me sane! I am very fortunate to have a varied portfolio of responsibilities; these include teacher of chemistry, CCF Contingent Commander and rugby coach. I have recently been appointed as Housemaster to a Sixth Form boarding house. These roles allow me to really get to know the boys on different levels.

In the Army, a good commander knows his men really well, has empathy for them but ‘talks straight’ when the occasion demands. I think the same holds true for a good teacher.

What is the most rewarding aspect of your job and its biggest challenge?
Small but deliberate nudges of the tiller through quiet talks can have a profound effect on boys’ lives. These moments are precious and very rewarding. The core values I learned in the Army are extremely useful in shaping behaviour.

Watching boys generate the courage to try something outside their comfort zone can also be exhilarating. Watching children develop is enormously satisfying and I think sharing a life with any child is a privilege.

One of the greatest challenges is learning to accept ‘failure’ and then encouraging boys to get up and try again. I think that the ‘grit’ they will need to succeed in later life is learned at school. I feel very fortunate to be in a position to try to make a difference.

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