Mike Gould is a former Head of English, Publisher and writer. He joined our team here at York Notes in Summer 2005 and ever since has been helping us devise and create new series styles and content, from our York Notes Companions for Undergraduates through to our bestselling GCSE Study Guides, Workbooks and Practice Tests.
Here you can find out a bit more about him, what he enjoys about working for York Notes, and what insights he has into the wonderful world of English Literature and Language!
1) Mike, could you tell us a little bit about your background in teaching?
Yes; I was Subject Leader for English at two large secondary schools, first in Luton, and then in Bexhill where I live now. After working in publishing for a while, I took up a role at Brighton University working on various English and education courses; this included visiting my students in schools and helping them progress to qualified teacher status. It was great meeting so many primary and secondary school students and staff!
2) What were your highlights as a Secondary English teacher?
In terms of teaching, I was very proud of raising the pass rate for GCSE significantly when I moved to Bexhill, and also in developing a coherent approach to English that the whole department signed up to. I have also been very lucky to have great teams and mentors supporting me. A particular highlight of my time in Luton was directing school productions including a musical version of Billy Liar and the powerful Dark of the Moon. The rich mix of cultures from the vibrant local community created an exciting, progressive approach to learning.
3) How has your teaching experience informed your role at York Notes?
I think having been able to test my own resources and pedagogy at the ‘chalk face’ (or should that be ‘smart board face’?!) has enabled me to get a sense of what works and what doesn’t. Also, as a writer myself, I am used to tackling the challenge of making difficult concepts engaging and useful at the same time. I’m also very, very aware of the pressures on teachers’ time. It was tough when I left the profession – it is doubly so now, so I always have in mind the ways in which our resources can benefit both teachers and pupils.
4) What do you think are the biggest challenges facing teachers and students in regard to new 9-1 GCSEs – and how can York Notes help?
The removal of coursework/controlled assignments has meant there are no set ‘staging posts’ for students along the way, so there is a lot to be absorbed and revised for exams at the end of a two year wait. Our Notes and related resources can work both as ongoing study guides, but perhaps equally importantly the raft of new materials such as workbooks, practice tests and so on can help schools and students refocus in the weeks and months leading up to the exams.
5) Finally, and this may be an impossible question but do you have a favourite work of English Literature? Why?
Well, it changes all the time – it was Bleak House for a long time, but I’m going to choose the wonderful On Beauty by Zadie Smith, which sparkles with life, ideas and quite brilliant dialogue. Can I have a second? If so, it would be The Crucible by Arthur Miller: the ending (spoiler alert!) when Proctor refuses to sign his name to his confession to save his own life is one of the most heart-breaking moments in literature. All the themes, storylines, emotions come down to one line. It’s about love and redemption. Utterly captivating!
Mike lives in Sussex with his wife, Jane (also a teacher!), and dog, Freddie, and occasional children. As well as his work for York Notes, he writes and edits educational resources as well as fiction and nonfiction, and also works with schools to support literacy.