Dr Tony Wood (1950 – 1957)

Alumnus, Dr Tony Wood

This entry comes from Dr Tony Wood, who writes to current students and parents to tell them of his time at Denes.

To students (and parents) of Ormiston Denes Academy…

Dear Student,

If you are reading this, you are probably wondering why I differ from other alumni by putting my ‘reminiscences’ in the form of a letter to you. Good question: Easy answer. It is because there is something I want to say to you specifically. Not quite yet; in just a moment.

I began my secondary education in 1950, at what was then the Lowestoft Grammar School, with high expectations.  I was not to be disappointed.  Of course 1950 is a long time ago, and the school was a different place in those days to what it is now, but in my seven years it helped me develop and hone abilities which had been lurking around for ages, resulting in a very happy adult life and a hugely satisfying career. I hope this principle is as strongly embedded in the school’s ethos today as it was then, and that you too will enjoy the benefits that can follow.

Like all schools we had good teachers and, (as we might tactfully refer to them), those who were less good, but I learnt how to deal with this to my considerable advantage. I drained the good ones dry of their knowledge and skills (the ‘vampire’ technique), and picked over the good bits of the others (the ‘vulture’ method) – both in a metaphorical sense I hasten to add!!  It worked well, and I have no reason to believe this approach would be less productive today than it was then.

Unlike you I am sure, I was a far from perfect student and, rather disgracefully, achieved an unenviable ‘first’ in being given a detention within days of arriving and another almost within days of leaving (best forget the ones in between)!  But I was a contented student, and enjoyed the process of learning as I could see the long term purpose of it.  And although middling in most subjects I did excel at mathematics and sport for which much credit must go to my skilled teachers Kathy Wimpenny and Mr Emsden (maths), and Dan Maddocks (physical education).

How important it is to have something – anything – which you can do particularly well or have specialist knowledge about.  It is not only good for one’s self-esteem, but it is surprising the doors which then open later.  I owe teachers like these, and others such as the wizard of the Physics lab Ernest Rimer, a great deal.

So finally we come to ‘the message’, which will hopefully assist you to make a flying start to your career. It does, naturally, relate to making the most of your education at the academy, and I offer it with the best of intentions in the form of seven tips:

  1. Find ways to build up your self-confidence by developing to the highest level you can a specific skill or area of knowledge.  As long as it is respectable and legal the actual area may not be that significant, because whatever it is you will then always have an interesting area you can discuss from a position of strength.  Everyone has something that potentially fits the bill – honest!
  2. Join school activities which will help improve your skills of oral communication and debate – probably essential to restore what you have missed through spending too much time on computer games!  Improving oracy will make you more articulate, give you a better command of English, and enable you to engage more confidently in dialogue with those who may have a big influence on your future, like job interviewers.
  3. Make the best use of your teachers – that’s why they are there. They are a great resource, and your conduits to the world of learning.  Identify the good things, in both style and substance, that you can learn from each one, sometimes in abundance sometimes less so, but all to your ultimate benefit.
  4. View an outstanding teacher as a potential role model, and unashamedly adopt as your own those exceptional features that distinguish him or her from the others, for example intellect, presentational skills, or personal qualities.
  5. Learn how to study efficiently, and also how to revise effectively for exams.  No doubt there are many sources of guidance available, but you must adopt systems that work for you. You could consider asking one of your role models how they organised their own studies when at school.  I did, and I never regretted it.
  6. Work hard of course – success in the long run will be difficult otherwise – and push your achievement targets to your personal limit.  However, also be sure to maintain a sensible balance between study and leisure. In the world of employment any decent boss wants all employees to have a good work/life balance.  This makes them more contented and better at their jobs. Sow the seeds now and you will be handsomely repaid later.
  7. Finally, seize the opportunities which the school has assembled for you, like the range of teaching expertise, learning resources, physical facilities, advisory services, extra-curricula activities and so on. Now is the time to lay down the foundations for a successful future life – don’t waste it.

And…good luck!

Yours sincerely,
Tony Wood

Dr Wood is Vice Chancellor Emeritus and Honorary Senior Research Fellow at the University of Bedfordshire, and Governor at The English-Speaking Union.


June 2014

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