A Day in the Life of . . . . a French speaking rugby player?

When I walked down the drive to school in September 1987, I could never have imagined I would still be teaching here some 30 years later. I arrived fresh from a post graduate year in Hull and had never had any interest in teaching in the private sector. I had gone through the comprehensive system in Leeds in a school with 1,500 pupils, and boarding school life was completely alien to me. I arrived in Robin Hood’s Bay because I loved the area and had met my partner, who was from Whitby, during university years. Having responded to an advert for a French speaking rugby player I thought my chances of being offered a position at Fyling Hall were slim. I was interviewed by John Wolley and Claire White.  The focus was on my French and music skills and nothing was said about rugby until the very last minute, when with a twinkle in his eye Mr Woolley asked which position I played in! With nothing to lose and having been dared by my then housemates I responded with a ‘hooker’ with a cheeky grin!

A few days later I was surprised to receive a letter in the post offering me a live-in position as a French and Music teacher and the rest as they say, is history.  Suddenly I was assistant matron in a house with 24 little girls aged 6-11 during the evenings and weekends and teaching music and French to senior pupils during the day. There were around the same number of pupils in the whole school as there had been in my 6th form! I was very fortunate that I was taking over the teaching job as a maternity cover and the handover period lasted for the first half term. I am now lucky enough to teach alongside Lizzie who was the first daughter of Mrs Rowland and the reason I was offered my job. Mrs Rowland taught French, German and music and I have since worked alongside her when she returned to FHS from Caedmon for several years until her retirement. People have asked me what made me stay so long and there are so many reasons. Fyling Hall is truly a very special place. As I come over the hill in a morning, I see that view; it changes every day and whatever my mood, and however tired I may be, the view of the Bay is one that I always look forward to seeing. I walk down the drive and the pupils greet me with a cheery ‘good morning’. Sometimes one will even offer to take my bags to my classroom. The staffroom is full of good-humoured banter and we are in truth like any extended family. We are a small staff and perhaps we know rather too much about each other. We argue, but quickly make up, and we laugh a lot.  As a new girl in 1987 I loved that some of the staff had been associated with the school since the early 70’s and learnt so much from the likes of Mr Blackwell, Mr Jeakins, Mr and Mrs Aspey and John Woolley who was my first Headmaster.

However, I think my greatest inspiration has been Mrs White. Last month she turned 90, and I was lucky to celebrate this milestone with a large group of current and former staff and pupils. I posted a photo on my Facebook page and was amazed at how quickly so many former pupils commented and sent birthday wishes. So many happy memories and stories shared. Clare is a force to be reckoned with and is a passionate advocate for Fyling Hall and all it stands for. She once told me that during term time Fyling Hall ‘owned’ me and this still holds true. The dedicated staff give up many hours of their ‘free’ time to make sure the pupils have the best experience they cannot just in the classroom but in their after-school activities too.

During my time at the school I have taught French, music and ICT, I have helped in the kitchens, done the washing up, waited on tables at formal functions. I’ve made beds, scrubbed walls, moved countless items of furniture, sorted laundry, fed ponies, and searched the grounds and woods for lost Labradors. I even balanced on top of a telegraph pole when the school rugby team went to do some outward-bound activities in the Lake District. I count many former pupils amongst my friends and it is wonderful that they get in touch so regularly to share their news, send pictures of their own families and sometimes just to say ‘hi’.

There can’t be many schools in the country where one of the teachers has taught 5 of the staff including the Headmaster! I suppose I am a bit of an anomaly in that during my time at the school Mr Allen, Mr Coates, Miss Anders, Miss Vincent-Jones and Miss Johnson have all been pupils and even more fun for me is that I am now teaching the sons and daughters of my former pupils. They often ask if their parents were well behaved at school and of course, the answer is always yes. There are always stories to tell but I’ll let their mums and dads share those!!!

So, what has made me stay? A sense of belonging, the knowledge that we actually do make a massive difference in the lives of so many of our pupils, the fact that my FHS family grows every year and keeps coming home to visit, or just the simple truth that from that first walk down the drive I was captured by that something special which FHS has? I see it reflected in the eyes of the pupils I teach, and on the faces of the staff as they work alongside each other to help our pupils achieve the best they can.

I can honestly say that the days that make us happy certainly make us very wise.

Ms Catherine Hornung

Head of Modern Languages