T2 loved his own Primary schooling. He had good teachers, good friends and lots of sports. In High School he recalls more sport – and debating. He has fond memories of catching the train to Moss Vale in Year 6 to play cricket. Most of all, however, he has vivid, fond memories of his Year 6 teacher. It was 1968, the teacher’s first year at the school. He was a veteran of radio quiz programs like Pick-a-Box, (and later TV programs like Sale of the Century) who transferred his passion to the boys he taught, introducing class quizzes and quizzes as rewards for completed work. T2 was an early convert to trivia and trivia quizzes, especially as an educational tool. He enjoyed picking up information.
He was part of a bright cohort of students. His father was a GP and his mother taught. He liked science but it was not his strength so he was not going to follow his father. T2 said his sister had those genes. Law was an option. On leaving school he did not qualify to get into Law, so opted to do a couple of Law subjects within an Arts degree. After two years he decided Law was not for him and that he was much more interested in his other subjects – History, Government and Psychology, so adjusted his course accordingly. The Primary School attraction had never left him, so, on graduation in Arts, he enrolled in and completed a Dip Ed in Primary Education. Without that transforming Year 6 Primary experience he would not have thought of the Primary education pathway.
The Dip Ed at the time had a strand of Remedial Education. To bed this down one of his teaching practices was spent at Newtown AO school, and one at Randwick Primary. This gave him insight and skill in working out how students learn and helping them to find their learning path.
Once he had his Dip Ed, T2 contacted an organisation that brokered employment of teachers to non-government schools in NSW. Through this agency he applied for, and won, a position at his old primary school as a Year 4 teacher. There were two Year 4 classes that year. The other was taught by his old Year 4 teacher from 1966. He remembered that being a great year as well. It was 1980- the year his wonderful Year 6 teacher retired. T2 bookended that teacher’s career – from student to fellow teacher! It was, “a bit weird”. There was a 20-25-year age gap, but it didn’t matter.
The mentoring relationship did not end there. His old Year 6 teacher had given T2 a sense of freedom in Primary teaching. The curriculum in 1968 was not crowded. T2 stayed in touch, ringing and visiting his mentor in his retirement on the Gold Coast. The quiz technique became part of T2’s repertoire. A word-oriented learner himself, he composed puzzle sheets, general knowledge quizzes and sheets in which students had to find the errors.
Some years later, realising that his mentor was no longer remembered at the school, T2 and a fellow teacher set up a board in his honour – marking a withdrawal area where students could retreat to do quizzes and puzzles as a reward, or as part of a lesson.
Over time he taught more Year 5 than other years. The school usually had two Year 4 classes and three Year 5 classes as more students entered the school at Year 5. This provided challenges in how best to integrate new students. When he was first appointed, classes were graded by perceived ability, then the school experimented with one graded and two mixed ability. By ten years ago, all were mixed ability supported by an extension teacher and a remedial teacher. The concerns of parents had to be managed through all the changes.
He coached cricket every year in Summer. Initially he coached Rugby in Winter then Soccer. After another teacher at the school had completed a year’s exchange teaching in Tasmania in 1998, the pair took up the idea of establishing a School Cricket Tour. The pair trialled taking a Year 5-6 squad on a cricket tour to Tasmania. So successful was this that it became a permanent part of the School calendar. The 11th Tasmanian Cricket Tour took place in 2018.
Another scheme cooked up with his fellow teacher was a holiday program conducted at the school’s oval. The school was empty over the holidays, so the two entrepreneurs set up a program in the December, July and September school holidays to provide structured activities, not just for boys at the school, but for other local children – both boys and girls. While many of the activities involved sport – tennis, table-tennis, volleyball as well as cricket- they also included Art and Drama. The days were divided into one-hour sessions. T2 and his colleague organised insurance and employed people to take sessions. The enterprise was very successful. Initially this was a small business operating independent of the school, but eventually the school brought it under its own insurance policy and jurisdiction. It served the school in several ways, providing a way for new students to transition to the school by making friends before they attended, for teachers to get to know students or providing a way for boys to meet potential partners for school socials!
Another of T2’s ideas was to bring interesting people in to speak to his school, such as a former Prime Minister, an Australian of the Year and a young man living with Multiple Sclerosis. Authors were regular visitors; they gave boys insight into the creative process, signed books and connected them to a world outside of their experience. While T2 was very pleased to have arranged a visit by a particularly well-known Australian author, he was more pleased that his school librarian was so dynamic and helpful; she immersed the school in the annual Book Week celebration with great author talks and promoted literacy and the joy of books each day she taught at school.
Gabi Hollows and others from The Fred Hollows Foundation were annual guests and T2 got the school heavily involved in fund-raising for charities such as The Fred Hollows Foundation and also MS Australia, through its iconic MS Readathon program. At the beginning of his career T2 could have an idea and proceed to implement it without much fuss. Over time, permissions and approvals needed to be obtained and the process took much longer.
T2 believes primary teachers need to remember their own primary schooling – to have been a little bit naughty themselves at school so they know how a primary student thinks. He also remembers his High School Ancient History teacher, who began the year very strict, then gradually loosened up as he and the students got to know each other. You need to provide a structure to get to know the kids. He would not have survived as a teacher had he not taken these lessons to heart. He learned, through training and experience, to deal with people as part of a group, not simply as individuals.
He retired at the optimum time under his superannuation scheme. He had been at the school a long time and needed time to relax. He was finding the administrative requirements of the school onerous.
In retirement he does sports coaching at the school and, last year, ran the school trivia night, which he and his wife did for over twenty years. He also works as a volunteer for a few charities. He is combining his teaching skills with his desire to help those less fortunate than him. He occasionally does casual teaching as a favour, rather than as a job.
He has loved dealing with children, watching them grow up and seeing their future unfold. He would have to have worked in a helping profession. He would not, he is sure, have survived in Law.
He is an organised person, and good organisation is a requirement for a Primary teacher. He is often frustrated in voluntary work with the lack of good organisation and group management.
He was very fortunate to meet his later-life mentor in Year 6 of his primary schooling. It triggered his imagination and touched a nerve that lasted for decades.
It seems likely there are students who will say the same for him.