Remembering a teaching 'legend' who changed thousands of lives

The entrance to the Owen Building. Ref exe 10-16SH 6921. Picture: Simon Horn

The former Rolle College building - Credit: Simon Horn

It was with great sadness that I learned a couple of weeks ago of the passing of Rolle College legend Ken Lawson. When I moved to Exmouth 23 years ago to take up a place on the Primary teaching course at Rolle, I was fortunate enough to have Ken as my professional studies tutor. His role was to nurture each cohort of trainee teachers, drawing all the strands of the training together and supporting our overall progress.

The PGCE course is a whistle-stop tour of all the ingredients of good teaching. It quickly sorts the wheat from the chaff; some realise it’s not for them and others struggle to keep up with a workload which – realistically – is a sign of things to come. Ken’s wise words helped me to negotiate many classroom scenarios in those early days of teaching practice. Having someone so experienced, yet so down to earth, show faith in you when you felt you were scaling Mount Everest, was priceless. I know I’m not the only Rolle graduate to have benefitted from his watchful eye; I’m not sure if Ken ever thought about how many lives he directly and indirectly affected, but it must rank in the thousands. The power of a great teacher to change lives, that’s what Ken represented.

I’d like Ken to have the last word to my column this week, in the form of a joke he told us. He was using it to illustrate something although the intended teaching point has disappeared with the sands of time. Nevertheless, it reminds me of Ken and the way he used humour to put you at ease. The joke goes something like this: A headteacher is leading the assembly and asks the class of young children, "What is little and grey, eats nuts, and has a big bushy tail?" After a moment one child replies, "I know the answer is probably supposed to be Jesus, but it doesn’t half sound like a squirrel."