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J C V has acknowledged his ability with a cricket ball; he is self-deprecating about the rest. In education, however, despite having been a poor student himself, his success as a teacher is widely acknowledged. (There is that canny axiom on the lines that those who are unteachable may at some stage turn to teaching.)
From an early age J V enjoyed passing on his enthusiasms—in astronomy and music, particularly. The plain truth is that he is unconventional in his approach, a fact noted by his tutor during final teaching practice. “You saunter about the classroom and laboratory as if you were enjoying yourself!”
Indeed he did enjoy himself in his attempts to unbutton the tensions that often inhabit institutional training. Once asked by an HMI (Her Majesty’s Inspector of Schools) why he had departed so radically from the curriculum during a lesson in mathematics, he responded with ‘Had you noticed any of the pupils nodding off during the period?’ To which came the answer ‘No.’ Say no more.
His teaching practice has been as diverse as anything in his life, from schoolteacher to university lecturer, extra-mural lecturer and so on . . . ‘You know, I am quite unable to give it up, and so I shall stop when I drop, or drop when I stop.’
With pupils at Rousay Primary School, 2007, working on the seasons
photo: Sheena Marwick