A Level is incredibly demanding in so many ways. A Level English Literature, specifically, is more so than average. Balancing technical proficiency in essay writing with a rich emotional understanding of a text is something that many find to be unachievable over the course of their studies. The result may be that either is lost, and that the product of their A Level is an ability to write clearly but without originality or write with a flair and brilliance that is lost between lines of poorly explicated analysis. Toby Keane is someone who has the rare ability to strike this balance. Being fortunate enough to have been taught by him, I believe that I do, too. Indeed, achieving an A* in A Level English Literature is one of my proudest achievements – one which I doubt I would have realised were it not for his ability to excavate texts and declare his findings with lucidity.
Whilst I left my sixth form behind in October 2017 to attend university, I took the skills I had learned in Toby’s classroom with me. At the beginning of my studies at sixth form I often found myself intimidated by the prospect of an intellectual grilling from another student, or from a teacher. Now in seminars at university I have no problem engaging in robust discussions about complicated subjects and have yet to find myself intimidated by the skills of argumentation possessed by students who have spent years in debating societies at school. I am not the only one amongst my former classmates to find this is the case. We have no doubt that it is due to the mature debates that took place in our English Literature classes, managed by Toby, and his commitment to teaching us the basics and the complexities of arguing (the foundation of the study of English Literature).
His teaching has proved invaluable for both my academic and personal development. I am greatly indebted to him for his efforts in going above and beyond during his time teaching my class.
Toby’s teaching of English Literature was distinct for three reasons; firstly, he took a systematic approach toward exam preparation, ensuring that we were able to write methodically at a consistently high quality for the duration of the papers.
Secondly, his interpretation of context to include preceding ideas in philosophy, science and art deepened our understanding of the texts involved, creating an edge over less informed students. Thirdly, his highly personal learning style suited the needs of our class, as Toby was exceptionally discerning in identifying our individual weaknesses and strengths.
He inspired respect and confidence in us, and in turn he held us in great faith. Toby recognized the abilities inherent to every student and as a result I have achieved a grade A* in English Literature at A-Level. Having been taught by Toby for 4 years in total, I have full confidence that he will deliver outstanding teaching to all those who consult him.
Working under Toby was an experience, and in all the right ways. He taught me for four years throughout my time at secondary school: the first two years, and then the last two years. If anything should be testament to his adaptive teaching style, it would be the instant sense of familiarity for year 7 that I felt in years 12 and 13. Each lesson had some kind of new and exciting content, and not simply because of the syllabus, but his unique self-expression and welcoming attitude towards the students. Toby’s passion for English evidently shines through into his teaching, and I owe a vast part of my A Level grade to him. He has also gone beyond expectations for his students’ well-being, having encouraged me massively when I was in a bit of a downhill spiral during A levels. He taught me genuine life lessons that I think back to if ever I need to, which no other teacher has done before. I have a great respect for Toby and, while he was my teacher, I always saw him as a friend foremost.
I had the joy of experiencing Toby’s lessons for my seven years at secondary school. He has a great wit and can deconstruct the most difficult texts and concepts in a way that is humorous, engaging and deeply philosophical. He enabled us to understand the point of learning: enjoyment! It is a process, a journey, not just a grade. Needless to say, this approach is much more successful than the conventional ‘you’re here to get a qualification’ approach that has plagued the education system. My class achieved over 70% A*’s at A Level, with a 100% pass rate, and a huge amount of this was due to the way he engaged and entertained us (as he continues to do!) Toby is not just an excellent teacher, he is a great mentor, and a great strength of his is how he prioritises a personalised approach to learning.
Leaving school teaching behind has enabled him to truly realise his plans for what teaching should be about, and Babel Fish has allowed him to realise his true passion for creative writing.
Your time with Toby will be filled with great laughs, memorable moments and a lasting impression. I am confident that your experience learning with him will be as enjoyable as our time with him has been.