Tim Footman, Global Write, Appleby College Alumnus

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Ever think your child could write books about popular music, have articles published with international media organizations or become an editor for the Guinness World Records? Tim Footman has.

Currently based in London and Bangkok, the successful Appleby College alum spent seven years in independent school in the UK before deciding to apply for an English-Speaking Union scholarship prior to university. The scholarship could have taken him anywhere in North America but Tim says he “struck lucky” with Appleby.

The experience of studying in a new country at the age of 17 was what Footman calls, “an excellent preparation for adult life. It’s good to plan a career but sometimes opportunities just present themselves that lure you down an interesting side road.”

At Appleby College, in Oakville, Ontario, previous experience in private school allowed Tim to enjoy the many benefits. “I felt there was always room for sports, extra-curriculars, conversation and fun, in balance with the academic grind,” he says. “My observation of schools today in the UK, Canada and beyond is that there is far more concentration in measurable statistics, which leads to the dreaded ‘teaching to the test’. Private schools are better positioned to avoid the worst of this with their smaller class sizes, selective intakes and facilities for extra-curricular activities.”

Footman excelled in English and History and was one of few students to earn school colours in Debating. His time at Appleby was also a chance to hone his appreciation for music and his main artistic outlet in drama where he performed in several productions, including Agatha Christie’s 10 Little Indians, taking on the opportunity to stage his own play.

I felt there was always room for sports, extra-curriculars, conversation and fun, in balance with the academic grind

Now an accomplished author of a number of books about popular music, including Welcome To The Machine: OK Computer and the Death of the Classic Album, Tim says he was always fascinated by music. “I had no talent for it whatsoever, so I was happy to listen to those who were. Appleby has a thriving jazz program and there were a number of very talented performers while I was there.”

Appleby College was also the foundation for the lifelong writer to take his passion more seriously. Says Footman, “Peter Josselyn ran a course called English 2, essentially a creative writing program where each term was devoted to an extended project; I wrote an epic poem, a cycle of short stories and absurdist play, which I got the chance to stage in the final term. I was also lucky enough to have Campbell Mackay for English literature; he introduced me to the works of James Joyce and Samuel Beckett and I’m still a fan nearly 30 years later.”

These days, Footman’s interests have shifted to popular culture and the way it relates to politics and technology. His advice for students interested in careers in writing or journalism? “Try to develop a broad general knowledge in as many subject areas as possible. Outside certain specialized areas, intelligent curiosity is far more valuable than in-depth understanding. ”

With the shifting trends in private schools toward more 21st century learning models and technology, Tim also encourages students who have access to blogs and social media channels to “get out there and get their thoughts in the open. Just get your stuff out there and see what happens.” Especially for students interested in journalism, Tim adds, “Being a journalist is often about knowing what not to write, so social media can provide a useful learning tool.”

Tim credits his private school education and time at Appleby for helping him develop these important life-long skills. “Intellectual and critical curiosity is a good thing for its own sake, even if it seems to be going up a dead end,” he advises, “And it’s okay to fail occasionally.”

—Erin McLaughlin
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