Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

Mr Marston and Mr Barber by Bear Grylls: Feature

Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

Mr Marston and Mr Barber by Bear Grylls: Feature

Article excerpt

The adventurer and explorer may have climbed Everest and sailed the Arctic Ocean, but thanks to two inspiring teachers, he knows that home is where the heart is.

I had two inspirational teachers at my preparatory school and it is impossible to separate them. Nichol Marston and Gerald Barber were joint headmasters of Ludgrove School in Wokingham, south-east England, and they were a dynamic pair.

They taught me between 1982 and 1987, when I was aged 8 to 13, and were a classic "good cop, bad cop" duo. Mr Marston - short, stocky and a firm believer in tweeds - was a strict but inspirational figure. He always believed we were better, cleverer and more capable than we ever felt. He was like a ball of fire, constantly patrolling and cajoling.

Mr Barber, by contrast, was softer, more family-focused and great fun. He was tall, slim, good-looking - like a modern-day David Niven - and he always had a hearty laugh.

Their special qualities were summed up for me one day when I was 10. We had a maths test that Mr Marston had set us. I remember getting no marks at all. He drew a zero in a circle and said to me that "fried eggs" like this would not help me to change the world. Then he stormed out, furious.

Later that day, Mr Barber came up to me and told me not to worry too much about my poor performance in the maths test. Instead, he suggested, I should focus on trying to hit a six in the school cricket match later that afternoon - and also on looking out for a younger student who was feeling homesick. I doubt I managed to hit that six but Mr Barber's words were really about building character and good attitudes.

The two men's teaching styles had much in common: they wanted to encourage and challenge, and they always kept the focus on effort and kindness, both of which they believed mattered more than excellence or prowess.

Mr Marston did sometimes get pretty angry with us if he felt we weren't trying our best. …

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