The teacher who most influenced me was Raphael Samuel, one of the leading social historians of his time – though I didn’t know that when I studied with him. Raph, as we came to know him, had chosen to work at Ruskin College instead of a more elite institution. At Ruskin, he taught people like me, who had no qualifications except for the fact that they had worked in industry, during a time in the late 1980s when many students were the victims of corporate layoffs, downsizing, or deindustrialisation. Raph always held a pencil or pen poised over a notebook ready to record the insights of his class. Most of us were flattered to think that what we had to say mattered to him. And it taught me an important lesson: we can always learn something from the experience of others if only we will listen.
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