26 November 2018

At this time of the year I am very fortunate to receive emails from families of Year 12 boys commenting on their son's teachers. Completing the formal years of schooling tends to provide an obvious reflection point for students and parents; reflections of celebration and sadness that the time has come to leave their college.

There is much written about what makes the difference between good and great schools. Some judgments about what constitutes a great school are made through very personal experiences at the time, others write in a more detailed and scientific way about the metrics which may point to a successful school.

However, there is no doubt that the quality of personal experiences for most students and families and the esprit de corps of a school is generated by the quality of the teaching staff. It is very simple great staff, teaching and non-teaching, make great schools. There is a saying from @Urban_Teacher:

'You don't build a top school, you build top teachers and then top teachers build top schools'

I came to Australia from the UK in 1970 as a 9-year-old and found myself going to a relatively small state school across the road from the cousins who sponsored my family's immigration to Perth. This year my first school in Australia, Como Primary, is celebrating its 100th year of operation. I heard that the school was having an open day to celebrate this major milestone. So I ended up spending three hours of a Saturday afternoon wandering around and reminiscing about the relatively small time I spent there.

To be perfectly honest I did not base my decision to return to Como on the fact that I had been exposed to amazing teaching facilities or grounds. My decision was solely on my fond recollections of being a student at Como; my memories were about fellow students and staff. I actually held very low expectations of seeing anyone who may have taught me back then. Like most young primary school students, at the time I thought that my teachers were all ancient then and how could they possibly still be around now - how wrong was I?

I was in the school hall and saw a person whom I thought looked like Mr Broadbent, the first teacher I had at Como; actually my first teacher in Australia. Having arrived in the September of 1970 I had him for the last part of the school year. Without missing a beat, he asked me "Weren't you one of the group that came from the flats?" He was of course spot on. My family and I spent two years in some Coode St flats which at the time tended to be popular with newly arrived immigrants. That one question from Mr Broadbent, followed by the ensuing interaction and sharing of stories about the school and where our paths had led us, vindicated why I had decided to return to visit my old school. My teacher remembered something about me. I am still trying to work out whether his reaction when he heard about what I was now doing represented joy, amazement or concern!

Thank goodness the current Como Primary School community chose to put on such a wonderful day of celebration which led to the likes of me being able to reinforce what I already know - teachers are so important in life's journey.

A couple of years ago Mrs O'Connell bought me a book entitled 'My Favourite Teacher'. In this book famous and not so famous Australians write about the teachers who changed their minds, changed who they could be, and changed their lives. Ticky Fullerton had this to say about one of her teachers:

'She was known to all of us as Eggy, whether you were in her class or not. No other teacher at school or university had any impact on me at all. Eggy changed my life'

As part of the feedback we received from the MMG surveys given to Year 5, 7 and 12 parents and students, it came as no surprise to me that the most important factor in choosing our school was the quality of the teaching.

While I know there are many things that go together to make Scotch a great school and community, it is timely that as 2016 is rapidly coming to a close, we remember just how important our teachers are to the development of our boys from Pre-Primary through to when they graduate as young men in Year 12.

I trust after reading this you may like to reflect on your favourite teacher. Maybe something worth sharing with your son(s)?

Please keep our Year 12 leavers in your thoughts and prayers as their final examinations start this week and continue through the end of next week.

Have a great fortnight

Dr Alec O'Connell