This week's Teacher Feature introduces our Head of English, Mr Fordham.
An avid literature fan, Mr Fordham joined us this year as our Head of English Department. Bringing with him a wealth of experience both internationally and from the UK, he encourages the students to practice empathy, tolerance and understanding thus embracing the plurality of perspectives.
Briefly describe your journey as a teacher.
I’ve been involved in education, in one form or another, since I graduated. Much of this experience has been with international students either in the form of second language tuition or university preparation courses. I taught in South Korea for around three years and felt truly privileged to have the opportunity to soak up a wonderful new culture while providing English language lessons to both students and the local community. I returned to the UK to complete my PGCE at the University of Cambridge and then taught in a high-achieving bilateral school in Rugby. While it was nice to return home, I couldn’t help but feel there was something missing in my life. I soon realised that that something was travel. The pandemic put things on hold for longer than I would have liked but I was soon booking flights to Slovenia and preparing for my next adventure.
Why did you decide to specialise in English?
Like so many people, inspirational teachers played a huge role in my passion for my subject. Having the opportunity to tackle complicated issues in a friendly yet challenging classroom environment really highlighted to me the importance of the study of literature. On one hand, literature can act as a form of escapism from the mundanity of daily life. On the other hand, it can help us to develop a sense of social responsibility and to understand those from dramatically different backgrounds than our own. I think this message of empathy, tolerance and understanding is as important today as it has ever been. I do everything I can to encourage my students to grapple with these complex issues, to be critical readers and to never stop asking why.
What makes BISL such a unique place to work?
The great appeal of BISL for me is the truly international environment it provides. This encourages both students and staff to embrace a plurality of perspectives. We are a British school so naturally many of our teachers are from the UK. That said, between us we have a broad range of international experience and this has shaped our collective worldview in an interesting way. The same can be said of our students. The value of such an environment cannot be overstated. This is one of the key things that drew me generally to the world of international schools and specifically to BISL.
How would you describe a typical day at BISL?
It is very difficult to talk about a ‘typical’ day in the life of an English teacher. I could break down the daily routines but doing so would overlook what makes my job such a satisfying one. What goes on inside the classroom can differ dramatically from day to day. I am a strong advocate for creating a dialogic classroom in which students are encouraged to engage with and discuss important issues. Sometimes this takes you down very familiar avenues but it also often leads somewhere completely unexpected. One of the things I enjoy most about my job is that there really is no ‘typical’ day.
Why is the experience of an international education important for a student?
I feel like most of my feelings on this issue have been covered above. An international education provides students with an environment in which they will be confronted with a wider range of people with significantly different life experiences. This can lead to stimulating, complicated and potentially challenging conversations but ultimately provides an environment in which students’ minds can prosper. In our increasingly interconnected world such a malleable mindset is a valuable asset.