Biopic (focusing on the professional bits)

I spent my youf (as I’d have pronounced it back then) in England, in a town called Harlow, in Esssex. Harlow had a number of things going for it, but it was a pretty violent place and I left as soon as I could and headed for the charms of Brighton and the University of Sussex. I majored in Philosophy in the School of Cultural and Community studies (yes, really) and developed a particular interest in the philosophy of education. What should people learn? When? How? Why?  Unfortunately there was no money for research into this sort of thing in Thatcher’s Birtain so I was forced to give up the idea of an academic career and go find a job. On a train back from an interview I picked up someone’s discarded newspaper and saw an ad. posted by an organisation called International House that was looking for people to go and teach English in all sorts of exotic locations. I investigated, ended up taking a 4-week training course (which included daily teaching practice) and was offered a job. ‘Where would you like to go’ they asked? ‘Egypt’ I said. ‘OK’ they said, and off I went to pack my bags. A few hours later then phone rang to say that there’d been a bit of a misunderstanding and there wasn’t in fact a position available in Egypt, but I could go to northern Spain for six months, then go to Cairo after that. So that’s what I did.

I spent the next few years teaching and travelling. Most of the teaching took place in a town north of Barcelona called Mataro, where I had a whale of a time. I took the DELTA (or DTEFLA as it was know then) at Intenational House Barcelona and almost immediately afterwards was offered a new job as Director of International House Terrassa (a town about 30km inland from Barcelona). I had received no training as a manager but the school’s owner, an English guy called Ben Warren, gave me a few pointers and I found the challenge of growing the school and learning the ropes as I went to be stimulating and fun.

A couple of years later I was appointed Marketing Manager of the International House Eastern Spain group of schools and given specific responsibilty for growing our Spanish language teaching department and our Study Abroad division. I was heavily involved is starting the International House school in Palma, as well as a second school in Barcelona which focused on teaching in the corporate sector.

I was just at the point when I was beginning to think about going off to do my own thing in another part of the world when Ben Warren, the owner and Managing Director of the IHES Group was killed. I ended up taking responsibility for the group and went on to open several more schools in various parts of the world. I also started Net Languages, one of the world’ first Web-based language schools, but that’s a story in its own right.

2 comments

  1. I would hardly call Harlow violent. Maybe boring would be a better characterisation. Little did you think while sitting through Mr Swales’ vocab tests or Miss Hall/Mrs Wright’s language classes that it would all lead to where you are now…no?

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    1. Hi John, not violent compared to many parts of the modern world, it’s true, but we did have our share of skin-head gangs which went around beating people up for fun. I remember seeing the launch of a new ASBO scheme on a Harlow housing estate. No coincidence, I’m sure.

      As for my foreign language classes at school, I don’t think they led to anything other than the realisation that I had no natural gifts in that department.

      Hope all’s well with you.

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