At the end of the summer term, Dr Colin Dodd, 74, who has been teaching science at St John’s since 1978, is finally going to retire. In 43 years he has taught over 15,000 students and inspired many of them to go on to become scientists. Described by many ex-students as “an absolute legend”, he is known for his sense of humour and inventive, sometimes unorthodox ways of capturing a student’s interest.
Dr Dodd told Marlborough.news, “The important thing to do as a teacher is to get noticed and to engage the students. I don’t have muscle or an intimidating appearance so the best way to engage kids is through humour. I call it ‘edutainment’ – education and entertainment at the same time.”
And it certainly seems to have worked as when daughter, Jennie, announced her father’s retirement on Facebook there were hundreds of comments from ex-students showing their appreciation. Exploding ancient chicken eggs, catching worms on the playing fields, blowing lungs up like balloons, looking for bats in the railway tunnel, swinging a pig’s lung and trachea over your head like a helicopter are just some of the memories shared. Many commented on how Colin’s inspiring and wicked sense of humour made science the “best fun.”
He commented, “It’s been a privilege to teach so many and I’m grateful to St John’s for employing me for so long. I find the company of kids so amusing and invigorating. They have added a major meaning to my life and I’m often crying with laughter about the things that they have said or done.”
After a degree in Zoology at Bristol, a PhD in Edinburgh studying, he says, ‘The sex life of the Tsetse fly’, Colin carried out research in Oxford, involving insects, for muscular dystrophy. His first teaching post was in Worthing and he arrived at St John’s in 1978 as Head of Biology. He was later Head of Science, Director of the Technology College and Director of Impact and Innovation. He actually tried to retire 14 years ago but after giving up his permanent post he has taken a series of maternity and sickness covers. More recently he has been a last minute supply teacher.
Like many of his pupils, he remembers the many school trips which helped to bring science alive – sea-shore ecology in Pembrokeshire, studying insects in The Gambia and Kenya, South Korea, Greece and Operation Wallacea, a conservation research expedition visiting the scientists in the cloud forest in Honduras.
In 43 years Colin has witnessed many changes in education. He commented, “Over the years there seems to have been a trend from radical innovation, excitement, and pluralism towards compliance to standards, and micromanagement of teaching and learning content and style.
Things are much more tightly controlled and there is less room for odd-balls and mavericks. Support for all types of student and staff needs has massively improved. These trends have certainly improved the quality of what is now measured.
It’s possible some things have been left aside in the process, but they are not easily defined or quantified. However, St John’s is an excellent school, tightly managed and well placed to face future challenges.”
Colin intends to have a busy retirement. He carries out weekly butterfly monitoring for the UK Butterfly Monitoring Scheme. Then there is his collection of bugs – he has over 200 giant bugs hanging on the walls in his house. He also has thousands of entomological books, some of them Victorian, which need cataloguing. “Oh, and my ‘target’ is to reach level 40 (now level 39.5) on Pokémon Go by July. I often chase the little beasts around Marlborough!”
Miles Whittaker, Senior Vice Principal at St John’s, said, “Colin Dodd has seemed to go on forever, much like the bunnies with the Duracell batteries in them from the famous advert and with almost as much energy.
If you speak to Colin’s ex-students, they will always have a story to tell about ‘Doddy’ and often several! Perhaps the odd story occasionally got exaggerated in the re-telling, but one thing that you could always be sure of with Colin around, was that there was literally, never a dull moment!
His passion for Science has remained undimmed throughout his long career and in recent years he has provided additional cover at St John’s, always totally flexible to suit the School’s needs.
We wish him all the very best as he hops off in to the sunset and to whatever excitement awaits him in his retirement. Once thing is assured, there will still be plenty of excitement with ‘Doddy’ around!”