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How Kings London has changed: memories from 30 years teaching at Kings

03 Apr, 2019
How Kings London has changed: memories from 30 years teaching at Kings

Since opening in 1966, Kings London has seen many changes, and as well as many students and staff! English teacher Helen Scholfield began teaching over 30 years ago, and shares her memories from her early days at Kings.

In the 1980s and 1990s, Kings London was just one building (25 Beckenham Road) and John Hudson was Principal. I got my first teaching experience here.

As now, students came from many different countries back then. I had one from Iceland — a driver whose job was to encircle the country over and over — who had excellent English, and gave me a beautiful book about Iceland. One student from Italy was obsessed with Shakespeare, and no-one could understand as he came out with lengthy prose from various plays! I remember another student from Eastern Europe, after hearing the song 'Sugar Sugar', enthusiastically leaping on to a desk and doing an impersonation of the singer as the song played. Every time I hear it, I think of that!

One thing that hasn't changed is to be prepared for anything to happen in class! Once I was using a coursebook which had a murder story as the theme. In the middle of the lesson, a girl rushed from the class in floods of tears. I discovered she’d had a friend murdered in the same way. That's something you could never predict.

We used to have the Language Lab, with individual listening booths — using cassette tapes of course — where students would listen and repeat pronunciation exercises. A tiny cubby hole next to the teachers' room served refreshments — tea, coffee and snacks — at break time. In summer we'd take classes in the garden too.

As Kings expanded, the house next door at number 27 was bought. For years we had to endure getting wet in the rain, running between buildings [before they were joined]!

The house had been owned by a family, and an old man had died in the bath, in what used to be a top floor bathroom. His ghost was reputed to haunt the house and Steve, a teacher at the time, claimed to have seen him. In those days, evening lectures were held in the lecture room and the lecturer had to see all the students out, turn off lights and lock up. On a couple of occasions I had really spooky experiences, feeling something (or someone) touching my back as I ran down the stairs and out as quickly as I could!

Gaston [Kings London's Finance Assistant] came to the school back in 1996, and was one of my students too! It's amazing that we have both remained over the years!

Teaching methods change, of course, and materials are different, but at the core of it all, many things remain the same and of course the main objective is still helping all the lovely Kings students (and they’ve always been lovely, in the main) to improve their English.

Now we have the benefit of the internet, and the good/bad influence of the mobile phone — and a much more reliable photocopier! We used to come in and find the photocopier broken — panic! — then wait for a couple of days before the mechanic came along to mend it.

One other thing I remember is that in the beginning of working at Kings, some of the classrooms even still had blackboard and chalk! Yes, hard to believe. Teachers were literally 'at the chalkface'. Then of course we had whiteboards and pens, and naturally it is now wonderful to have the IWBs [interactive white boards].

The school has become much more professional and sophisticated, and of course international, with branches around the world.

Over the years, I've been lucky enough to keep my connection with the school, and it's a great part of my life!

1988 photo of Kings group having dinner.

About the photos, taken by a teacher in the late 1980s at Kings London:

The photo above is at the house where a Chinese student (sitting on the right, behind me) was living. On the left at the back are two other teachers at the time, Wayne and Joan.

The Chinese student, whose name I do not remember, was possibly the first we had at Kings London in the 1980s. How he managed to come I do not know, as foreign travel [from China] was very restricted. I think he worked in some sphere which made it possible.

Anyhow, he was a wonderful person. He had very little money, and had saved for the trip. Once here, he got himself TWO newspaper rounds [delivering the daily newspapers from a local shop to customers' homes] which meant starting work at 4.00am every single day. His rounds included lots of walking up stairs in blocks of flats too! After all that, he came along to Kings for his English lessons.

His ambition was to save enough to buy a Raleigh bicycle to ship back to China, and he achieved this. He invited all the class and three teachers to a Chinese banquet at the house where he was staying, buying all the ingredients and cooking everything himself.

I always think of him with great admiration.