I attended a grammar school at a time when that was considered provision enough for gifted children. Fed up with coasting along, I left to teach myself A Levels before reading philosophy at Corpus Christi, Cambridge. A variety of ventures followed, including online voteswapping, the manufacture of garden trellis and firework shops.
Eventually, I went into teaching, leading to some very happy years teaching English at Sutton Grammar School. During tutor time, I rotated round Year 7 forms, facilitating discussions using philosophical stories. When I was choosing a brand name, I remembered one boy exclaiming, "Yay! It's the Philosophy Man!"
While at SGS I took over DofE and expanded the school's tradition of outdoor trips. I keep that connection through my outdoor education company, Outspark. We're an Approved Activity Partner for the DofE, and about 270 SGS boys will be having some sort of adventure with us this year as well as hundred of participants from other schools.
Since 2008 my main focus has been on Philosophy for Children. I'm a registered trainer with SAPERE and train upwards of 2,000 teachers a year in INSETs and keynotes, and work with perhaps 3,000 children a year from nursery to sixth form. I particularly value opportunities to work with both children and teachers at the same school on repeat visits, because when a school makes a big commitment to one thing, it has a much bigger impact than skating between different initiatives.
I am extremely keen to ensure that I don't just turn up, trouser my fee and disappear. So I put a lot of my energy into creating catchy concepts and practical resources that support teachers. I send out a bulletin of free p4c resources to over 17,000 teachers each week. I also write minibooks such as Pocket P4C, Thinkers’ Games, Philosophy Circles (with Tom) and the forthcoming Philosophy Riddles.
I do an increasing amount of my work abroad, with recent visits to Iceland, Czech Republic, Singapore, Vietnam, Indonesia and South Africa. Week-long engagements in leading international schools are particularly fruitful as there is time to work alongside teachers and develop new resources specific to their needs, which can then be shared more widely.
Most importantly, I continue to practice P4C in the classroom through my workshops with primary and secondary children.
As well as P4C and outdoor education, I am Director of Studies at GIFT, an organisation providing opportunities for gifted children. I run days on philosophy, storytelling, comedy improvisation, public speaking and writing; other lecturers might be constructing crystal radios or learning how to hack computers. It's a haven where both the participants and the staff feel utterly at home. I am also a trustee of the charity Potential Plus, which supports the families of children whose interests and abilities outstrip those of their age-peers.
When I'm not working, I'm into hillwalking, comedy improvisation and, just lately, caving. I live on a narrowboat in Cambridge, but I’m very happy to avoid the river in the winter by spending time in warmer countries, so never think that your school is too far away!