Thursday, 05 November 2020 15:49

Top London honour for QE Girls' history teacher

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Without him knowing what was happening, past and present pupils at Queen Elizabeth's Girls' School, Barnet, were voting secretly for their popular history teacher and sixth form tutor, Marc Fielder, to become the 2020 London Secondary School Teacher of the Year.

“I was puzzled at first when I got the call, and the organisers were very cagey to begin with,” said Mr Fielder.
“I had no idea what had been going on. Apparently, it was all done on social media with the girls encouraging one another to vote for me and then ex pupils joined in.
“I could hardly believe it when the organisers told me that I had been voted top teacher of the year in London’s secondary schools.”

Mr Fielder, who has taught history at QE Girls for the last 27 years, missed out on the annual awards dinner which had to be cancelled because of Covid-19.
Instead the event was held online on the Facebook page of the children’s wellbeing charity, the KM Charity Team.
Totteridge Academy’s maths department won the teaching award for the 2020 team of the year.

Mr Fielder was a late entrant to teaching and his first and only fulltime post has been at QE Girls which he says he has found so fulfilling because of what he believes is the inspiring social mix of an all-girls school which is non selective and open to all pupils in its catchment area in and around High Barnet.
“I am very privileged to be teaching classes which have such a wide social, ethnic and religious mix and one which has become increasingly diverse, for example, with the daughter of a professional couple perhaps sitting next to the daughter of an asylum seeker from Afghanistan.”

Mr Fielder started work as a political researcher and was with the Royal United Services Institute in Whitehall for seven years conducting research into nuclear arms control.
“Defence and the nuclear arms industry are an all-male world which was off putting, and I did get very bored, so I started training to be a teacher.
“When I did my PGCE I have to admit I hated the teaching experience in schools and at the end of my course I did not bother applying for a job.

“Luckily, I had a very good tutor and as I was the last on the course without a post to go, he suggested I apply for a vacancy that he had seen at QE Girls’ School in Barnet. That was 1993.

 

“When I walked into the school, I was greeted by the very first person I saw...and he turned out to be Nigel Royden who is still at QE Girls after all these years and who teaches media studies. After all, I am only the fifth longest serving teacher.
“The second adult I met was a woman in a red dress who was singing and swinging two maracas...and she turned out to be the head teacher, Libby Coleman, who said come this way.
“So after having worked previously in a white, all-male world of the military, which tends to be confrontational, and where I was the only non-public school boy, I suddenly found myself in a school environment that looked towards consensus and where the girls all seemed polite and confident, and were all from the local neighbourhood.”

Mr Fielder says his passion is classroom teaching and finding ways to inspire girls from such a diverse multi-ethnic and multi-religious mix.
“I use traditional English music, songs, poetry and literature to engage the class. I never cease to be amazed at the way the girls respond and how it helps them understand history.”
Mr Fielder has organised numerous school trips to the Great War battlefields which were always a highlight of the school year for many of the pupils.

To help prepare for a visit to the Thiepval war memorial he might get the class to study the life of George Butterworth, the famous English composer, folk song collector and country dancer.
Butterworth collected folk singing and dancing of rural workers, many of whom volunteered, as did Butterworth himself, who became an officer, fought at the Somme, and was killed, and whose name is recorded at Thiepval.
“His life tells the tragedy of the First World War and the folk songs and dance help the class relate to the history of those who lost their lives, and then they can see for themselves the name Lieutenant George Butterworth listed at the memorial.”
Another reminder of the wider cultural impact of the Great War is to explain that the Indian Army was largest component of British Imperial forces and that they were all volunteers.

The work of Thomas Hardy – and Tess of the D’Urbervilles – provides another link from the lives of Wessex farm workers to Indian history and literature.
To illustrate this, he contrasts the British film and television series about Tess with Trishna, a film with an Indian cast by the director Michael Winterbottom, which tells the story of an Indian young woman plucked from village life and mistreated by a rich entrepreneur.

Long before the recent focus on the Black Lives Matter movement, he was using music and songs to explore the history of the slave trade, taking advantage of recordings from the 1930s to 1950s of rural black communities in the deep south of the USA.
When he first played the negro spiritual, Trouble So Hard, recorded by the American folk singer Vera Hall, the girls sat in silence. He then played a DVD of the same song set to a modern dancing beat by Moby. One of the pupils said, “Stop it. He’s ruined it.”
“The class loved the original and hearing a scratchy recording of Vera. Through songs and music, they could hear the voices and the pain of a generation whose parents were slaves, so the pupils could relate to the children of slaves as they could to the lives of Indian soldiers.
“Thomas Hardy and the story of Tess, helps the understanding of children whose ancestors were Anglo Saxon, just as it does to those whose parents fled Afghanistan.”

Mr Fielder hopes lessons like this for 13- and 14-year olds might spur them on to take history at A level, a subject which he thinks has been bucking the trend and remaining popular.
Looking back on his life’s work, he recalled some of the tributes from past pupils. Recently two sent him a card that said, “We always enjoyed German history, and you have influenced the music we listen to”.
A cheekier riposte was a line to the effect that the class always knew his lesson would be a “complete joke” from the moment he entered the room – which could be interpreted as a compliment or taking the mickey.

Mr Fielder is due to retire in two years and in retirement may devote more time to trade union work with the teachers union, NASUWT, of which he is currently the assistant area secretary for Barnet and a case worker.
He is full of praise for the progress made at the school by QE Girls’ head teacher Violet Walker.
QE Girls has recently outperformed all other secondary schools in Barnet with a progress score of +1.11 – the highest level of improvement and is now in the top 0.4 per cent of all schools and joint 26th out of all 6,502 secondary schools in England and Wales.

 

 

 

26 comments

  • Comment Link Thursday, 05 November 2020 18:23 posted by Eamonn Rafferty

    What an inspiration. Well done Marc

  • Comment Link Monday, 09 November 2020 14:14 posted by Paula Canty

    My daughter was inspired by Mr Fielder to study history at Queen Mary London university. She learnt so much from his lessons which were at such a high academic level and gave her the best possible start for her degree. Very nice to read this news!

  • Comment Link Monday, 09 November 2020 14:27 posted by ElaineLevy

    Very well done Marc.

  • Comment Link Monday, 09 November 2020 14:50 posted by Raj Jani

    Many congratulations Mr Fielder. You inspired our daughter to become interested in history about 3 decades ago. To this day, yours is about the only name of teacher that comes up every now and then. Your legacy still lives on. Clearly an award that is richly deserved.

    Thanks

  • Comment Link Monday, 09 November 2020 16:25 posted by Sonia Iafrate

    Well done Marc! I'm truly happy.

  • Comment Link Monday, 09 November 2020 17:13 posted by Christy Cox

    Well done mr Fielder. I was at QE from 2005-2012 and was one of only 2 people that took history A Level. I remember you teaching just me and Rachel Russian History in the class. You did such a great job and are one of the teachers I remember really well looking back on my time at QE.

  • Comment Link Monday, 09 November 2020 19:19 posted by Dave Reading

    Marc’s trips to the battle-fields of World War One are amazing. His knowledge and passion for the subject are inspirational. Richly deserved award, Marc, many congratulations!

  • Comment Link Monday, 09 November 2020 20:17 posted by Laura Woolfe

    Well done Marc, so pleased you have received this well deserved award!

  • Comment Link Monday, 09 November 2020 21:26 posted by Risha Shah

    Congratulations Mr Fielder! Me and my sister Rakhee were very touched and pleased to see this story. We also note you look pretty much exactly the same as in the nineties! :)

  • Comment Link Monday, 09 November 2020 21:32 posted by Wendy Hintze

    Nice one Sir, you were one of the good guys who never gave up on me! Can’t believe you’re still at QEGS. My son enjoys History, I was more into Geography - too many dates to remember. Well deserved recognition p.s sorry for being little a f**ker in your lessons

  • Comment Link Monday, 09 November 2020 21:53 posted by Jayne Mays

    Amazing teacher.
    I loved your history lessons and the trip to Russia with Mr.Jenkins!
    Well deserved, you have inspired so many.
    Best wishes

  • Comment Link Monday, 09 November 2020 23:50 posted by Grateful parent

    Congratulations Mr Fielder - you’re a living legend!

  • Comment Link Tuesday, 10 November 2020 20:08 posted by Katie

    Congratulations Mr fielder, you deserve it! I remember you vividly and I'd like to add that you have not aged a day. I was a student there from 1997 to 2003.

  • Comment Link Wednesday, 11 November 2020 16:06 posted by Arthur Fielder

    My very dear Marc, I am, and always have been, so proud of you.
    I know and have seen how hard and diligent the hours you spend in your lessons preparation, especially during your 'Off Duty' days during the school holidays. I have even known you to 'slip away' for an hour on a Christmas morning, reappearing just in time for the festive dinner.
    One can only imagine just how proud your mother would have been.
    I have been inundated by congratulations and 'well done' by family and friends for the son I have produced, I have positively glowed in your success. One would think it were I who had won such a prestigious award. Keep it up son, I need all the glory you can get. Your loving dad.

  • Comment Link Wednesday, 11 November 2020 19:32 posted by Katie Mills

    Wow! Congrats Mr Fielder!! That’s an incredible award! Well deserved. I feel very privileged that you were my history teacher (likely to have been around 1994!!) and remember our history trips very well! Huge huge congrats! A lovely article to read!

  • Comment Link Wednesday, 11 November 2020 22:40 posted by Angelica

    Mr Fielder, what a legend you are! This is so wonderful and so deserved, I loved your history lessons so much. QEGS is so lucky to have had you all this time. Congratulations to one of my favourite teachers ever! All the very best, Angelica (Alu) x

  • Comment Link Wednesday, 11 November 2020 23:41 posted by Jade Woods

    So well deserved! I loved your classes and still remember what you taught us to this day. Your classes were hilarious, thought provoking, compassionate and interesting. You engaged us in our cheeky questions and encouraged us to be ourselves. You have such an impact on everyone you teach, truly unforgettable and one of a kind. I was there 2001-2008.

  • Comment Link Wednesday, 11 November 2020 23:46 posted by Jenny Thorby

    CONGRATULATIONS Mr Fielder!! Thanks for being the best teacher and inspiring me to do a History degree. I loved learning about Stauffenberg and his near assassination of Hitler, and all the other interesting facts! (2001-2006)

  • Comment Link Thursday, 12 November 2020 10:03 posted by Jessica McGreal

    What lovely news to hear in these gloomy times! This award is so well deserved. I always enjoyed and learnt so much from your history lessons, which I studied to A-Level, and can still recite - some - facts from! Your lessons gave me such valuable insight into both history and politics - as well as lots of enjoyment and laughter. Your lessons helped shape my career into writing and journalism as well as passion for politics. Some of the girls I studied A-Level History with in 2008 are still my friends today, and we still speak about our memories of history lessons at Q.E fondly and with lots of laughter.

  • Comment Link Thursday, 12 November 2020 11:32 posted by William fielder ( uncle)

    A quote from ' The Hitchhiker's Guide to the galaxy',' your career and success is almost but not quite exactly the same as mine'. I use to get my students to throw a tennis ball to one another to teach them how to draw. Well done you. I shall bathe in reflected glory.

  • Comment Link Thursday, 12 November 2020 19:54 posted by Ed Howard

    This is a fantastic achievement.

    Well done!

  • Comment Link Thursday, 12 November 2020 20:41 posted by Leanne Hattersley class of 2005

    Brilliant history teacher and gentleman. Well deserved.

  • Comment Link Friday, 13 November 2020 00:57 posted by Helen Hall-Mitchell

    Many Congratulations on this award- you taught and inspired my three daughters Lucy, Olivia and Georgia Hall-Mitchell- your love for history is infectious and they all used to come home with anecdotes about your lessons- being a great teacher is not often recognised but I’m glad that you and the Great QE Girls school have been rightly rewarded. Thank you.

  • Comment Link Friday, 13 November 2020 14:17 posted by Lu Baxter

    Congratulations Marc. Well deserved recognition of your dedication over the years. I can’t believe you’re still there at QE! (I think we joined the staff at the same time.) Lu

  • Comment Link Sunday, 15 November 2020 12:00 posted by Sarah Meacham (was Harvey)

    Congratulations Mr Fielder! Your lessons were always so interesting and fun. You are one of the teachers I still talk about from time to time. Very much deserved!

  • Comment Link Sunday, 15 November 2020 15:41 posted by Jeannette Poole

    Well done Marc. It's so good that your enthusiasm and passion for teaching have been recognised formally. I'd overheard many comments from pupils over the years about the quality of your teaching.. . an award richly deserved.
    Jeannette

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