Thank You, Sir

“Education doesn’t actually work by teaching you things.  It works by giving you the impression that you’ve had a very good education, which gives you an insane sense of unwarranted self-confidence, which then makes you very successful in later life.”

Rory Sutherland (TED Talk)

Our oldest has recently turned five, so I’ve been thinking a bit about the influence that different schools and teachers can have.

This post is to recognise some of the teachers whose paths I have been fortunate to cross:

Mr Nicholson (Island Bay School) – who taught me that the key to entertaining people is not necessarily to be the greatest piano player, but to play songs that people recognise and can sing along with.  He was also a deceptive spin bowler with an ability to adjust the difficulty of the ball to the skill of the batsman.

Russell Watt (South Wellington Intermediate) – who taught me that everything can be a competition (even maths!), which was a pretty rare thing in an environment where most other people thought all that mattered was taking part.

Mr Walters (South Wellington Intermediate) – who taught me to peen, and to count in hexidecimal, and that there were things you could do with a computer that were potentially a bit more interesting/useful than playing lemonade stand.  This was back in the day when computers in schools were kept in their own special “lab” (are they still?)

Suze Randal (Rongotai College) – who convinced me to study French and German, two subjects which were much harder than the others I was considering and which no doubt came in quite useful a bit later on – when I was in Paris and Berlin, and also when it came time to learn Pascal and C.

Gareth Rapson (Rongotai College) – who introduced me to non-fiction which makes you think, and taught me how to argue convincingly from both sides of the same debate.

Peter Andreae (Victoria University) – who demonstrated that to be impressive and influential you don’t have to talk loudly or wear flash clothes (or shoes, at all).

Robert Biddle (Victoria University) – who was able to fit an amazing amount knowledge onto a single OHP slide, and make the most difficult concepts plain and obvious, and in doing so showed me that if you know something but can’t explain it clearly to others then it’s really as if you don’t know it at all.

Of course there are many others, but these are just some that come to mind.

PS Three observations:

  1. Yes, when I studied Computer Science they used OHP slides … I’m getting older every day!
  2. Even now, it still doesn’t feel right to use first names for some of these people (even where I know them).
  3. It’s interesting how many of these are men.  Coincidence?

3 thoughts on “Thank You, Sir”

  1. Thanks! I am off to my weekly piano lesson right now, and will be asking to learn something people can sing to.

    PS. I also had the pleasure of being *quietly* taught by Peter Andreae circa 1987 complete with OHP.

  2. Wow. Excellent memory there Rowan. I was just talking to someone the other day about the Island Bay caretaker Mr. Torrington. After this morning’s news article about honorifics in Schools ( I was wondering if there was another slide in our social systems of respect. But you’ve proven in your blog that regardless of Ms., Mr., Sir., Miss, or “hey you”, quality teaching earns respect and quality Teachers remain with us throughout our education/careers/life. Nice one. For the record Claire Campbell, Ms Hewitt, Miss Salzberger, Chris Duckworth, Mrs Urale, Jenny Murray and Ken Simpson all had various positive effects on my education. But it was my Dad who encouraged me to always learn more.

  3. Hi Rowan, Thanks for the post. Brought some wonderful memories of mine when studies at Vic. Pondy never wear shoes, no matter how cold it is, always bear feet. If it wasn’t him, I would never had the chance to compress my degree in two years (which was really important to me as an international student). It’s amazing how much impact teachers can make to one’s life.

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