Alex and I became partners in December 2017 when I joined Babel Fish, an English Language School in Cornwall.
We started working together in 2012. I was teaching a GCSE class and Alex was providing specialist support to a brilliant young man in the class who happened to be blind. At the same time Alex was completing an English Literature and Creative Writing degree and had just about that time had the idea for ‘Surf and Study’. He had taught ELS for 15 years, and the idea came naturally to him. What pervaded in our conversations was Alex’s independence. He instated that learning did not have to always be limited by the dictates of a school. I agreed, but I was a career teacher, hungry to win responsibility and establish myself as a dynamic thinker who could get results.
And whilst I was those things, and my results were good, I knew something was missing. At the exact point a promotion loomed in 2016, I checked myself, doubled back, and enrolled in a part time Masters degree.
And for me that’s when it all changed.
When I started teaching I knew that systemic practises of school threatened the individual. My own experience of going to school, likely a little like yours, was that despite all the good things about learning, school imposed restrictions. Learning of course was readily encouraged, but it could only be done according to school policy. And even though I knew this, I thought I could change it, and I really tried to. But unless you’re superhuman, you can’t change institutions from the inside, you will only get institutionalised. And all the books that I have read and taught insist that the things that we construct – institutions, schools, and systems, though they are designed to enable the collective, threaten the very thing they profess to protect. And I knew I had to work for myself, from the beginning. From that moment. And the only way I could think freely and enable others to think freely was if I operated freely.