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Staff feature – Mr Stubbs

Head of Modern Foreign Languages Mr Stubbs is based at Langley Senior School but has also taught at our Prep School.

Staff JamesWhat is your fondest memory of school?
When I was in Year 11, a small group of us went on a school trip to Paris for five days. I hadn’t been abroad before, so this was very special for me. Finding out that someone other than my teacher could understand me when I spoke in French and that I could understand them too really strengthened my rather shaky confidence. The trip also coincided with my sixteenth birthday and I couldn’t have spent it in a more beautiful place.

During your school years, what was your biggest achievement?
Well, I did win a creative writing competition in Year 8, which I was very proud of, but if I’m honest, I think my biggest achievement came out of failure! I failed my first driving test when I was seventeen, which really stung, and I did particularly poorly in one of my Lower Sixth exams. The experience hit me hard, not having really failed at anything before. It was too late to switch from the subject I struggled with and still come out with the grades I needed for university entrance one year later and my parents couldn’t really help me. So my biggest achievement was facing the hard choice in front of me, of either just giving up on what I really wanted to do or accepting that I needed to work a lot harder, ask for help where I needed it and being prepared to make mistakes and learn from them. A big slice of humble pie! When I got the grades I needed, it really was my biggest achievement because of all they represented and it was one of the most important life lessons I have had.

Why did you decide to become a teacher?
Part-way through my degree, I spent a year abroad, of which six months were spent in Soria, Spain. There I worked as a language assistant in two schools and an adult education centre teaching English. I found I really enjoyed both teaching and working with young people. After I graduated I went back for another year to exactly the same place and because I knew the schools and the teachers and they knew me, they gave me more to do, so by the time I returned to the UK to begin my formal training, I had a much better idea of what teaching involved. I loved the intellectual challenge of working out how to get something across to children who were struggling with difficult concepts and I loved the experience and the reward of seeing them get it.

How would you describe working here at Langley?
A privilege! I’ve taught in several schools over 25 years and Langley, both the Prep School (where I spent two years) and the Senior School, are by far the most awe-inspiring places to work. The groundsmen do an incredible job to make our working environment so beautiful all year round, the kitchen staff produce culinary wonders of their own every single day and the commitment of my colleagues in the MFL Department spurs me on to give of my best too.

What is the highlight of your teaching career so far?
That’s an easy one! The first time that a pupil I had taught got in touch to tell me that she had studied French at university and gone on to train as a French teacher and was now working in a school in London and thoroughly enjoying her job.

Is there a teacher that stands out for you?
There have been many and for different reasons, but one in particular was my French teacher up to GCSE, Gordon Juden. He was a lovely, kind man whose encouragement nurtured my love of languages. He told my parents at a Parents’ Evening when I was in Year 9 that he would like to see me go on to read languages at university. Nobody in my family had been to university before and I had never thought of myself as capable of it, but with that one comment, which surprised me more than anybody, he sparked an aspiration that quite literally changed the direction of my adult life.

What do you like to do outside of work when you’re not teaching?
I love to cook and to read and I’ve always been involved in my local church. I’m also a magician, a member of The Magic Circle, and although I have never worked full-time as a performer, I’ve done a fair bit of professional work over the years. Magic has made its way into School too, with our co-curricular activity, ‘The Magic Square’ and we have some talented budding magicians who are doing really well.

What advice would you yourself give to pupils?
Never be afraid of making mistakes – we need them. What matters is how you respond to them, and that is a choice we each have to make.

Published On: June 17th, 2021Categories: News

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