Podcast Episode #4 – Paul Dean

In Episode 4 of my series interviewing teaching greats from the recent past, I interview Paul Dean. Download the podcast or listen online here: https://soundcloud.com/willorrewing/paul-dean or watch on YouTube below.

Paul read English at Manchester 1971-9. His first teaching post was in Manchester. He was then Head of English at Portsmouth Grammar School 1986-99, Dragon 2000-8, and Summer Fields 2008-15. He is now retired but still on the books part time at both.

In this interview, we start by discussing why Paul was attracted from secondary teaching to the independent prep sector: “prep schools seemed to offer the freest place to teach in the entire educator sector.” In the second half, from 25.30ish, we discuss his thoughts about teaching English – when, to my mind, the interview really hits its stride. For those who are time-pressed, I’d especially recommend Paul’s thoughts on the teaching of poetry from 41.28 onward, which includes some mesmerising impressions of Auden, Heaney and Wordsworth.

Thank you very much to Dougal of the band Paint (www.facebook.com/pg/paintbandUK/about/) for the wonderful jingle.

Other topics discussed:

  • The dangers of “modularisation”
  • The Dragon School
  • Exam preparation vs freedom
  • Professional development
  • Mondrian and “freedom within frameworks.”
  • His own education and his struggle with Maths
  • Advice for young teachers
  • Marking and grading
  • Being on the side of children vs the institution
  • Teaching vs management
  • History of English language; importance of teaching it
  • Reading of Old English;
  • Poetry and critical thinking
  • Lovely reading of Seamus Heaney and others
  • Why children don’t like poetry
  • The dangers of ‘sneering’
  • Contemporary teaching and English teachers today

A clarification from Paul,

“I got the wrong voice for Auden, but that does not matter very greatly. He was more reedy than I made him. I was adapting the voice I do for Isaiah Berlin. But it’s right enough about the American twang.”


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