Chiswick Teacher Celebrates Fifty Years In Education
Popular teacher at local school says age no barrier to doing something you love
Family, friends and colleagues have been celebrating with Chiswick & Bedford Park Preparatory School Drama and English teacher Susan Stanley-Carroll, who has spent fifty years in the world of education.
This is despite the fact that as a young woman aged seventeen Susi, who wanted to be an actress, told her parents and teachers; "Over my dead body will I be a teacher".
Throughout her career Susi, as she likes to be known, has won a number of awards, including a BT Primary Teacher of the Year in 2009.
Her life as one of the country's longest-serving teachers was the subject of an article in The Times last week. One of her concerns is the increasing pressure on young children, given the intense competition for school places in west London. She believes that this pressure has intensified since her own two sons, now in their thirties, were at school (St Paul's and Latymer) in the 1980s.
Susi uses the techniques of 'mindfulness' to help older children relax, particularly those preparing for the 11+ entrance exams, incorporating breathing and visualisation techniques to help the pupils control their anxieties. It helps children who are nervous during exams or whose minds go 'blank' with fear. "In the past, exams seemed easier, more predictable. Girls have always put pressure on themselves to achieve their best result," she comments.
Susi with two ex-pupils. Kate Steed (now a teacher) and Kate McGregor
The hundreds of pupils who have been in her classroom at Chiswick & Bedford Park school probably do not realise that their teacher has had such a colourful life.
Born on the brink of WW2, she attended fourteen schools, as her father was in the Royal Air Force. This included stints in the then Rhodesia and Egypt- she had to escape in an armed car (which broke down in the desert) when riots broke out against King Farouk.
After completing her education in the UK, her parents sent her to a Secretarial College in South Kensington. She still "craved" to be an actress, and was offered a place at The Guildhall School of Music and Drama. She also decided to take a teachers' training course and left Guildhall with a Distinction in teaching and a prize for Best Shakesperean Actress.
However a life as a thespian had to be put to the background as the demands of a teaching career grew. One of her first jobs was at the new Peckham Comprehensive School, where she produced plays and unscripted dramas, introducing the first CSE Theatre Arts Course in London and writing a book, Drama Without Script.
Interviewed by The Times in 1968 on the benefits of teaching drama, she described what motivated her and said: “When I worked in an office I met so many juniors who were quite unable to really talk to each other, let alone with senior staff or visitors. Largely because of this inability to express their ideas – and I know they had ideas - they were terribly lonely, and vaguely dissatisfied with their empty lives. I knew that in today's speech and drama teaching in schools, the emphasis is no longer on elocution, nor on producing the end-of-term play, but on helping children to use language effectively to communicate. So I applied for a specialist course, and here I am, loving every hectic minute of it."
Her passion for drama as an effective means of communication, has not diminished and outside the classroom, she attends theatre on a regular basis with friends.
Following her marriage, there were stints as an expat in the Far East and Middle East from 1973-1982, continuing to teach in Hong Kong University and as an Art Critic with the Hong Kong Standard. In Singapore she taught at teaching training college until the birth of her eldest son Richard, in 1977. Saudi Arabia proved more 'challenging' due to the rules on foreigners working, but she taught English in a primary school - and was paid by selecting a piece of gold jewellery in the souk. Her son Christopher was born in London in 1982 and she stayed in the UK as he was unwell as a baby.
Following her divorce and now living full-time in Chiswick, she took a succession of teaching jobs, including for a short time at Arts Ed, until her arrival at Chiswick & Bedford Park Preparatory School in Bedford Park, where she has remained, teaching English and Drama.
After discovering that Christopher was dyslexic, she threw herself into finding out the best methods for helping children with dyslexia and other learning challenges - this aspect of 'boosting' children is still an important part of her work in eduction. She has continued to mentor children with creative writing. Several of her pupils from C & B have won prizes for writing and some have gone on to become teachers themselves.
With a former pupil, who nominated Susi for BT Primary Teaching award
A love of poetry recently inspired Susi to help develop Chiswick’s Young People’s Poetry Festival, and she also organises a regular local Pass on a Poem event. She continues to attend poetry courses run by Chiswick writer/poet Anne-Marie Fyfe. In her spare time Susi is an English Heritage guide at Chiswick House. She is also a regular visitor to New York to see her son Richard and his wife Jodi and two adored young grandchildren. Son Christopher is a regular visitor back home to Chiswick from Brussels.
Though she refuses to contemplate retirement or taking things easy, she will however, at the insistence of her sons and friends, 'cut down' further on her teaching week. In September she will study a Mindfulness course and says she aspires to improve her poetry and develop her story-telling skills.