Mr Patrick Chin-Dahler


Life before Girton
I most recently worked at Haileybury in Melbourne and then on secondment in Darwin. In Darwin I was fortunate to work as the Deputy Head of Boarding at Australia’s largest boarding school for Indigenous students and then helped implement the VCE for the inaugural graduating year. My experience in Melbourne helped solidify my understanding of rigorous curriculum, while my experience in Darwin helped me understand the value of institutionalised knowledge within schools and the challenges of establishing a culture and curriculum in another jurisdiction. I also gained insight into a part of Australia that I had little previous experience in and had the opportunity to travel for both work and pleasure to some remote areas.

Prior to Haileybury I worked as a Head of Department in a Victorian public school (via the Teach for Australia program), and prior to working in education I worked as an advisor at the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet. My initial years as a teacher helped me gain an understanding of how to run a classroom and motivate students, while my experience at PM&C helped me appreciate the function and workings of government and inspired me to pursue a life with meaning (hence my switch to education!)

What I Love about Teaching:
There is the unique opportunity to truly change students’ lives. I used to volunteer as a tutor at the Parkville juvenile detention centre and was able to help a student gain his VCAL over a 6 month period. One cannot simply achieve those kind of things in any industry. Not only did it help the student, but it helped shape the kind of person that I am.

More generally teaching is a unique job that affords me the privilege to interact with a diverse range of people, shape students’ world views and analytical thinking and guide students to achieve their best. I genuinely walk away at the end of the day, term and year proud of some of the changes I see in students.

What is the best thing about teaching at Girton?
I have been very impressed with the culture of the school. While the grounds and buildings are beautiful, a school is usually defined by the ‘soft’ elements – the people and the culture. It is one of the few institutions that I have seen that genuinely embraces a well-being and learning philosophy (the RULER program) and aims to incorporate it in the heart of the school and its people. Students and teachers here are curious about the world, they want to learn, and they want to do better. It is a rare and inviting place to work.

My favourite classroom activity
It’s probably one of the more ‘boring’ activities, but I often have students reflect on their learning. After a piece of assessment students complete a grid that asks them to answer questions relating to their preparation for the assessment and the way they answered questions during the assessment. Students then set goals based on their self-reflection. The process is in itself not particularly interesting, but it allows students to match their effort with their results and to develop a pathway forward. I enjoy it because it is valuable and meaningful for students, and I have seen students internalise the self-belief that they both believe and know how to do better.

What difference can good teaching make?
While I have worked on issues on a macro-scale in the public service, there are certain intangible qualities that a teacher can bring to a classroom that can motivate students and help them grow academically and socio-emotionally. These qualities cannot be easily replicated. In this respect good teaching can make a huge difference to the well being of a child and the opportunities he/she will leave school with. I believe that education is essential to establishing the kind of society one wants to live in, and that teachers are at the forefront of guiding students to be ethical, empathetic and informed people. The difference between good and not so good teaching can be the difference to students’ low or high educational outcomes and hence the opportunities they have in life.

Other Hats
I enjoy travelling, food, reading, watching TV shows and most sports. I really enjoy learning new things – especially things I’m not good at – and so I’m currently interested in general DIY things.