Life before Girton
After graduating from La Trobe University with a Bachelor of Teaching, I spent a number of years living and teaching in Europe. As well as the mandatory stint in London, this also included a season living on a Greek Island, before returning for a stint in Yorkshire teaching at a primary school there. After my return to Bendigo and a number of years teaching in local primary schools, I pursued my love of Graphic Design and completed a Bachelor of Graphic Design in 2008, with a major in Illustration. Immediately prior to my arrival at Girton in 2018, I enjoyed a stint at Marist College, Bendigo. Prior to that, I worked at Eaglehawk Secondary College for 9 years, where I was lucky enough to combine my love of teaching with my passion for graphic design. In this time I set up and managed a classroom in the main street of Eaglehawk (set up especially for disengaged students) and also set up Eaglehawk’s own community publication – the 3556 Magazine. I commenced employment at Girton in 2018 and whilst the place is super busy, I have never worked in a school like it. I love coming to work every day at Girton (Even Mondays!).
What I Love about Teaching:
Seeing the look in a young person’s face when they can suddenly understand or do something they didn’t think they could previously is still one of the biggest buzzes in teaching. Building great relationships with young people is also an absolute joy to me. To do this properly, I have found that we need to go beyond the academic content and take an interest in the various layers that make young people tick – their music, their sports, their passions, their pets – whatever!
There is no place to work, quite like a school. In much the same way as a bee-hive or an ants nest operates; every morning in schools there is a buzz and energy as people scurry about, getting down to their daily business and making their best possible contribution to the greater cause. From the Headmaster right down to the smallest Prep; Everyone has an important role to play every day. As well as this daily burst of collective energy, I also love the variety that we get in teaching – one thing you could never say is that the profession is boring or ‘too predictable’. No two days are ever alike and you never quite know what will come your way. Like a champion tennis player, we must be on our toes, fully alert and ready to give things our very best shot every day – however challenging or ‘from left field’ the task in front of us.
What is the best thing about teaching at Girton?
As mentioned, I have never worked in a school quite like Girton and I am so grateful that I get to walk through the gates every morning. The students here have a magnificent mix of academic drive, zest for life and of course – emotional intelligence. Sometimes students here take their own people skills for granted, but the training and people skills our students receive along the way definitely gives them a beautiful, warmth and a personable edge. The people you share an office with here, and the students you encounter in classrooms are generally so willing to connect and make the effort. In walking to class each morning, you would generally get at least a dozen smiles and ‘good mornings’ from students and colleagues which is a lovely way to start a working day.
The culture of excellence & growth is present in everything that happens here – in classes, sport and musical performances. People are continually looking for ways to improve, develop and learn. Irrespective of age or role, it is impossible not to be continually ramping up and pushing beyond our comfort zones. Standing still isn’t something that happens very much at Girton.
Finally, something that still blows me away is the elite standard of musical performances here. Sometimes, in listening to a student performance, I close my eyes and it can be hard to believe that the spectacular sounds are coming from a group of kids. You can coach a boy in football one day, then the next day see him up playing a violin in a thirty piece orchestra. It is absolutely impossible to pigeonhole a Girton student!
My favourite classroom activity
Being a qualified Graphic Designer, I love illuminating learning via visual means whenever I can. I really enjoy showing students things via clips, drawings, diagrams or using colour in creative ways. I also enjoy building students up via getting them to pass on their learning to others. In my Learning Resource Centre role, there is nothing better than teaching a student something they previously didn’t understand, then making them an expert via teaching others. This transfer of confidence illuminates a classroom!
I absolutely love breaking up my teaching via coaching sports teams, whenever the opportunity presents itself (especially cricket, football and table-tennis). Connecting with students via their sporting passions can be very useful in building multi layered relationships, including connecting with these students academically going forward.
In the same way (aside from the lack of sleep involved), I love school camps. These are a great chance to really get to know young people and quite often those that thrive on camp can be different to those who rule the roost in the classroom. Often the support required on camp can be different and more personable than the academic support required in the classroom. Being away from home for an extended period can be very challenging for young people. The small and seemingly insignificant ways we support them on camp can be the difference between having a horrible time or having a wonderful experience, building their independence and making lifelong memories!
What difference can good teaching make?
Great teaching can make the world of difference to the students in our care. The greater question is ‘What do great teachers actually do?’ There is no one, golden combination that makes for ‘teaching excellence’ but to me there are many great things that make for an excellent teacher. The ability to relate and establish great working relationships is important. Dedicated preparation and being highly organised is something that students have consistently mentioned in surveys over the years. In addition, being passionate about what you are teaching and putting student learning first are also important aspects of effective teaching. As a great white shark can sense a drop of blood in the ocean, I have found that students are very good at detecting who actually cares for them and the content. Therefore, being fully present and loving what we are doing is vital in helping students maximise their learning. In recent discussion with students, they also maintain that a teacher must be technically competent and be able to implement technology quickly and effectively – this is something I am continually working on!
Outside of my professional life, I absolutely love life and maintain many passions and interests as time allows. I love the visual arts and continually try and find time for illustration, drawing and painting. I love drawing people and have sold a number of caricatures and portraits online. Another passion for me is golf, where I hope to get my handicap into single figures later in the year. I enjoy travel, recently visiting India and Japan. I enjoy dabbling in music – in recent years I was part of a three piece acoustic cover band with some friends. On a day to day level, I absolutely love going home to my wife and my dog Bella. I believe that dogs have many traits that people can learn from, and our dog Bella brings so much joy to our lives. I dabble in the kitchen (and thanks to modern technology) enjoy nothing better than a browse online, then a trip to the grocery store and a session in the kitchen. In addition, my wife and I get up each morning at 5 am and try our best to maintain an optimal level of health and well-being. This involves daily meditation some cardio / physical exercise then a leisurely breakfast to get mentally set for the day. We are both members of the Carlton Football Club and enjoy nothing better than an adventure down to Melbourne to cheer the Mighty Blues home to victory.