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Five Minutes of Fame with Ruth Taaffe

Ruth Taaffe is the Head of English at Dulwich College (Singapore) and has been at the College for four years. Here she tells us a little more about her favourite authors (which is an incredibly tough decision), the band she would like to sing the night away with and the importance of wellbeing in the workplace.

Where else in the world have you lived?

I have lived in Lancashire, Manchester, Sheffield and Sandhurst in the UK, in Pattaya and Phuket in Thailand and in Manly (NSW, Australia). 

Tell us about your family.

Jeff (Mr Fuller) is my husband and head of design technology at Dulwich College (Singapore). Luke is my eldest son and has just taken his IGCSEs. Charlie is my youngest son and is in Year 9 here. We also have two dogs; Kipper who was adopted during our time in Phuket and Lenny who was adopted here in Singapore. 

What’s your favourite weekend activity in Singapore?

I love getting outdoors and having a stroll around East Coast Park with my family and dogs. 

The weekends are precious for settling down to do some writing for my MA in creative writing – I like finding somewhere quiet to work on this too.

Did you always want to be a teacher?

Although I didn’t realise it at the time, I probably did. However, right up until going to university I wasn’t actually sure whether I wanted to study English or biology never mind what career I would follow. It was only when I began voluntary English teaching in Sheffield that I thought it was the path for me. There’s still a sense that I’m learning and improving all the time as a teacher too; I’m never complacent despite having taught for 25 years. 

What is your favourite book and who is your favourite author?

Impossible to answer! If pushed, I’d say my favourite poets are Dylan Thomas and Carol Ann Duffy; I’m currently enjoying fiction by Barbara Kingsolver (The Poisonwood Bible is my number one novel of hers) and I have a soft spot for the English landscapes epitomised by Thomas Hardy.

Tell us about a hidden talent or a top secret that no-one would know about you.

I have beaten the game BOPIT due to my lightning reflexes.

Which five people would you invite to a dinner party, dead or alive?

Even though this isn’t in the spirit of this question, I’d rather gather my friends from around the world who I’ve grown up and grown older with and who I only see every now and then. All those people, and my family, are invited! They’d number more than five though… it would have to be a house disco instead. 

But, if I was keeping to the rules, I’d choose John, Paul, George and Ringo* and we’d sing all their albums in a night.  

*(Yes, I know that’s only four…)

What does a typical day at the College look like for you?

I arrive at school and check in on people first before looking at any emails (it puts me in a much better frame of mind). If all’s well with the English team, I make sure I’m prepared for my classes for the day. 

I’ll find time to have a wander through the library most days – it’s comforting being surrounded by books. I might have someone in mind who needs a recommendation so I’ll browse the shelves for something for them. 

Lessons, lessons, lunch, more lessons…

At some time during the day, I’ll try to get outside for a walk to the café or just to the quad for some fresh air. I’m part of the Senior School and whole College wellbeing development teams so I have to practise what I preach. 

On Thursdays it’s The Dulwich Times CCA. The wonderful school newspaper has been going for almost four years now and is almost entirely run by our students. (Get the latest copy via MyCollege or The Dulwich Diaries).

At the end of the day, if it’s a Friday, I have band practice with the Bandicoots – a Senior School teacher’s band – always a great start to the weekend. 

Do you have a motto or saying that really resonates with you?

"There’s more to life than books you know but not much more… not much more." - The Smiths

Do you have a most memorable teacher moment?

A student I taught in my first school in Thailand always crouched down by my desk whenever she spoke with me. I asked her why she did this and she answered ‘my head can’t be above yours because you are the teacher and I have to show respect.’ It was incredibly humbling. I never forget that teachers have a great responsibility to return that respect to our students.