Introducing Academic Coach, David Rendle

David Rendle is the latest coach to join the academic coaching team at Life More Extraordinary and brings with him a wealth of experience working with students and as a parent. 

David considers himself a life-long learner with a passion for conveying the love of learning to others, which can be seen in his long and varied career in education.

He has 25 years experience of teaching, during which time he’s also been Head of Geography and Head of the Humanities faculty and a Housemaster. He’s been a Geography examiner for the OCR and Edexcel exam boards too, and has taught future Geography teachers at university and worked with Geography departments in schools to improve their delivery. David has also qualified as a life coach.

Outside of his work, David’s interests include the environment, art, travel, following sport and reading. He’s married and is a dad to two grown-up children, which has given him experience of guiding children through education from a parents perspective.

In this interview, I talked to David about the expertise he brings to the academic coaching role and how he might be able to help your child through their exam years. You can listen to the podcast using the player above or read the summary of the interview below. 

David also delivered the How to Revise A-Level Geography Masterclass for The Extraordinaries Club. Listen to his podcast interview about A-Level Geography here.


Can you tell us about your history and what brought you to academic coaching?

I was a secondary Geography teacher in the independent sector for 22 years. I left full-time teaching some years ago to explore other opportunities and trained as a life coach, so I do coaching as a profession for all sorts of people. But I've very much kept a foot in the education camp as well. I'm a personal tutor and do a lot of tutoring, for A-Level and GCSE students primarily. And, up until this year, I have also been working in two university departments training future teachers. 

The secondary school I worked in was co-ed but, in my latter years, I was a housemaster in a boys boarding house. Alongside my academic teaching duties, I had this pastoral responsibility for looking after around 30 borders and 30 day students between the ages of 13 and 18. So that kept me on my toes. I also ran the Geography Department for a few years, which I very much enjoyed.

What's been the biggest struggle in your own education and how did you overcome it?

During my A-Level years, I went through a very bad patch of mental illness. I had severe depression, though I didn't know what it was at the time. 

As a consequence, I underperformed in my A-Levels quite significantly. The way out of that was seeking some professional help, which was very, very helpful. 

There's always a way back with education. I'd got sufficient grades to get me into university. My A-Levels weren't great, but I came out of university with a decent degree. I largely put the troubles behind me. I got stuck in and started to enjoy academic life again. 

A-Levels are so important when you’re younger because you need them to get to the next stage of life. Now as an adult, A-Levels are no longer so important. They were important at the time, of course, to get me into a university. But now, in job interviews and so on, no one's interested in my A-Level of grades; it's all the things I've done since.

Can you tell us about the experience you have as a parent and teacher and how this informs your work as an academic coach?

Both of my children, who are now adults, experienced different challenges in their academic lives. I think, from a parent's perspective, they just needed to know that I was always there to help, should they wish. I tried not to be on their case or to be the persistently worried parent in the back of the room, constantly nagging away

Having gone through my own education and through being a teacher, I was well placed to provide whatever skills I had. A lot of what I was doing were the sorts of things that we do at Life More Extraordinary. It was about finding ways to motivate them and providing help with revision systems. It was providing that kind of practical, non-subject-specific support, which I was certainly doing as a parent and as a housemaster as well. 

Children don’t often like taking advice from their own parents. Did you find that with your children?

With one of my children, I was very aware that I shouldn't push my support. I waited until he approached me. It might have caused a bit of antagonism if I'd been on his case all the time. When he asked for support, I knew that he really wanted it.

It wasn't easy at times. I have to say, my family had the advantage that my two children went to the school that I taught at. If they didn't want to hear it from me, I could have a little quiet word with one of my colleagues. That would work sometimes. 

Do you have any stories about how you've helped students with the kind of things that we help students with through academic coaching?

In my early teaching career, there was a young man going into year 13. He just didn't know what he wanted to do with his life. 

I asked him questions, I didn't give opinions. I just asked him questions that would hopefully lead him somewhere, and clarify his thinking. One set of questions really did seem to get him thinking in a more direct way. They were encouraging him to identify specific parts of his A-Level studies and his general interests that he enjoyed.

Something began to emerge. He had an interest in landscape from studying Geography and the aesthetic from studying Art, where he was doing a lot of landscape painting. Suddenly, something popped into the conversation about landscape architecture as a possibility. The long and the short of it is that 30 years later, he has his own practice in landscape architecture and is doing extremely well.

That showed me that one can really make a difference just by helping a student clarify their thinking. 

Through my tutoring, I've done a lot of work with students on motivation, and getting themselves organised and getting a plan together. And it genuinely does help them. There's also considerable overlap between tutoring and academic coaching. I find myself constantly sort of coaching when I'm tutoring. It’s about not providing the answers but asking the right questions to get the student thinking, or offering some strategies to help with motivation or revision skills.

Quickfire questions to end

Which book has had the biggest impact on your life?

Silent Spring by Rachel Carson.

It’s one of the books that got the environmental movement going in the early 1960s. Rachel Carson was a biologist, and also a fantastic writer. In this book, she outlines the insidious effects of pesticides on the natural world. It really spoke to me and has dictated a lot of my thinking and my path in life. That's one of the reasons why I became a Geography teacher.

Do you have a favourite teacher and why?

Well, this is a bit of a cheat, but there are actually two favourite teachers, who each taught half of the A-Level Biology syllabus to us. 

They were called Pete and Dave and were are a bit like a 1970s version of Ant and Dec – they were very amusing, very, very passionate about the subject, and extremely good teachers. All their students looked forward to their lessons because there would be some real rigour and they really cared. 

What's your favourite holiday destination?

When I was a kid, we had our family holidays up in the South West of Scotland, in Dumfries and Galloway, where I have a lot of relatives. The holidays were very low cost, very low tech. We spent them in an extremely remote cottage right by the sea with no electricity. So that was quite exciting. Just days spent outdoors on the beach, climbing mountains, all that sort of thing. 

What's your favourite takeaway or food?

It’s got to be good fish and chips. It always makes me think of summer holidays as well, because that was something I always had on holidays.

What's your most used app on your phone?

I'm not a great one for apps and the phone but I do use the ZOE COVID symptom app daily to update our latest Covid tests and say whether we felt well or were showing any symptoms. 

This is part of an enormous citizen science project. I'm really pleased to be part of it and the data seems to be helping in the battle against Covid. I can look at updates and look at some of the data as well. 

Would you like David to be your academic coach?

If you'd like to work with David to help your teen improve their study skills, revision or mindset, click here to find out about our academic coaching packages.

Book a call to talk through why you're looking for help and we'll assess if we're a good fit for you. If you want to work specifically with David, just let us know. Alternatively, we can recommend the best coach for you.

Click here to find out more about academic coaching.

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