Teachers come from all walks of life and backgrounds. Graham Silverthorne went from historian to banker to leader of a large international school in Singapore. Read on about his journey to becoming the new Head of UWCSEA East Campus.
How did you go from a Cambridge University history graduate to teacher?
With every life journey, there were plenty of twists and turns. When I left Cambridge, I joined Lloyds Bank. I wore a pin-stripe suit and worked in the West End of London – it sounded exciting but banking really wasn’t for me. I then worked in the private office of the Secretary-General of the Law Society and as the editor of a professional accountancy magazine. These were great life lessons for a country boy living in the big city, but I realised I needed a greater sense of purpose. To the astonishment of friends and family, I decided to explore teaching. From the very first day, I knew this was my path. I loved the learning, the philosophy, the human contact – I loved it all! I was Head of History before the end of my first full year of teaching and a Vice Principal within seven years.
What has teaching taught you?
I am tempted to say everything. It taught me to speak less and to listen more. It taught me that we are lucky if we are paid to do something we truly love. It taught me that every single child is gifted with a special light, and that schools are responsible for growing it into a flame as well as not snuffing it out.
How did Asia come about?
I first travelled to Hong Kong and Singapore in the 1980s, and I fell in love with Asian culture and with the romance of Hong Kong. One day by accident I clicked on an advert for a post in Hong Kong. The decision to apply changed my life. After seven wonderful years at Hong Kong’s South Island School, I moved to Singapore simply because I was unable to resist the challenge and opportunity to work at one of the world’s great schools. UWCSEA is a hard place to turn down.
What plans do you have as the new Head of UWCSEA East Campus?
Right now I’m learning about the deeper nuances of the community, the campus and the College. Many people are invested in the history of the school and in the guiding principles of its mission. I have not worked in a place before where so many people believe in the goals of the organisation. It really is a tremendous experience, so plans can never be “mine”, they must always be “ours”.
Graham at a Glance
- First job: A holiday job as a file tearer – eight hours a day of tearing files!
- Hong Kong vs. Singapore? That’s like choosing between pandan cake and egg puffs; I love them both!
- Collections: Dark chocolate bars if my wife would allow me.
- Favourite book: The Alexandria Quartet by Lawrence Durrell.
- Number of kids: Thousands – but none at home!
- Favourite sports team: Manchester United – this is my tribe!
- Fondest memory: Cambridge – cycling to lectures down Grange Road on crisp autumn mornings with my scarf blowing behind me and endless blue summer days, punting down the River Cam, heading for the Orchard Tea Gardens in Grantchester for a cream tea.
UWC South East Asia East Campus is at 1 Tampines Street 73. For more, visit uwcsea.edu.sg.
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