Ollie Davies (Class of 1998), Geography Teacher, City of London School

How did CLS get you ready for the world of work?

In no uncertain terms, it was the teachers and the enthusiasm they demonstrated for their subjects that has helped me in my career. I firmly believe in the value of fun in the classroom and making studies relevant to the individual. This really came through in the Sixth Form where small class sizes and more freedom for discussion suddenly elevated mere schoolboys to academic students whose views were respected. I vividly remember several members of staff who would call us “gentlemen” and not “boys” which just inspired me to engage further with my studies. These were definitely my favourite years and ones I try to recreate for all my classes.

 What was your first job?

I worked in a comprehensive school in East London where I qualified as a teacher through the TeachFirst scheme. Exhausting but rewarding work. After three years some random emails congratulating the then Head of Geography Stephen Crook on his retirement led to me seeing the advert for a job at City. The rest is history.

Your biggest professional achievement?

I was so proud of the CLS Geography Department field trip programme that we established. I felt strongly that, for our subject, we did not get the students out enough to learn about their world. Everyone in the department pulled together and for a number of years, we had a programme that was unrivalled in any other school that I came across. We had a field trip for every year group (two for some), including one residential trip for GCSE and another for A-Level, a Lower School Expedition to Wales and a Senior School Inter-Continental Expedition taking in destinations such as India, Cuba, and Namibia. The students enjoyed their time away with us and we were always oversubscribed for our expeditions.

Your most challenging professional moment?

The day-in, day-out behavioural and academic challenges of a comprehensive school in a deprived area of London are the most demanding I have ever faced. On my very first day teaching I had a Year 9 class that I could barely get to sit down and stop shouting at each other. I almost quit that day but was talked down by a relative (also a teacher in the maintained sector) who assured me that it gets easier, just get my rules and procedures sorted. I worked hard at exactly this over the weeks and months and gradually I managed to make progress with my most difficult classes. Thank goodness she changed my mind as I had some great times there and made friends for life.

What inspires and motivates you at work?

Without a doubt, the students of City of London School. In any day I will be inspired, educated and entertained by what so many of them have to contribute in lessons. They are empathetic in nature, hardworking and determined to improve the world. They are a ragged bunch when it comes to dress codes but for sheer positivity, independence and drive they can’t be beaten.

One piece of advice for pupils and other Old Citizens about getting into your profession

Enjoy yourself. I have seen bureaucracy and behaviour (from students and staff) make many a teacher despondent and negative. Remember why you came into the job and keep having fun making your subject relevant to the young minds in front of you. That is what matters. Everything else is puff.