Be a teacher. Please? Please be a teacher.


It’s funny how one picks up little subplot signals in the zietgeist to the point where the only way to silence them is to act on them. You know – those times when you’ve got a bee in your bonnet and its only way out is to share it whether you were invited to or not. The title of this blog is one such bee and it has been buzzing around in my head for the better part of a year.

It’s first resonant buzzing came to me last year when I was researching one of my newest heroes – Tim Minchin. I came across his graduating speech to the class of 2013 at his alma mater, the University of Western Australia. You can see it here and I thoroughly encourage you to do so because he is a rare talent and an extraordinary thinker. If you couldn’t be bothered though, that’s ok, here’s the ‘buzzy bit’.

Be a teacher.
 Please? Please be a teacher. Teachers are the most admirable and important people in the world. You don’t have to do it forever, but if you’re in doubt about what to do, be an amazing teacher. Just for your twenties. Be a primary school teacher. Especially if you’re a bloke – we need male primary school teachers. Even if you’re not a Teacher, be a teacher. Share your ideas. Don’t take for granted your education. Rejoice in what you learn, and spray it.

Advice well expressed and well worth heeding but, as I personally had already heeded it many years ago, I didn’t know really how I’d further the point so I left that idea alone and the urgency to post the idea waned over the course of the year.

However, It grew again in late October. This time it came from a good friend and respected colleague of mine at our school’s Graduation dinner. His official address was the same as Minchin’s. His message was one of hope that all the graduates of 2014 would become teachers one day because he wished them all the pride, satisfaction, and fulfilment he has experienced working with them and which culminated in this momentous occasion.

Once again though I had nothing more to add except to say that I concur whole-heartedly. Still, the idea grew …

It even occurred to me again over successive movie nights in the Sterlinghurley household. Over two traditional Friday fish and chip feast my kids and I watched the Karate Kid films of the 80s. It was awesome. My boys sat mesmerised and I revelled in the nostalgia. I got a real kick in seeing their appreciation of slightly dated Generation X cinema. I also realised that, of all the heroes of my youth, Mr Miyagi was the only one left that I still have a shot at emulating in some meaningful way.

Okay, so I admit that encouraging teaching at graduation ceremonies is one thing, but seeing the same advice in 80’s cult classics is a little bit of a stretch. But that’s the thing about zeitgeist. It permeates. And besides, what else could the moral of the movies be other than ‘You don’t have to be a Teacher to be a teacher. You don’t even have to teach karate to teach karate! If you’re really good, you can teach karate while teaching how to wax a car and paint a fence.’

So now I come to this week and I’m seeing the concept everywhere.

  • Sunday: my youngest takes part in her first dance recital and I see how much she and her little friends have developed not to mention the pride glowing on the faces of their teacher and assembled parents.
  • Monday: I take next year’s senior classes for their first lessons as part of the school’s orientation program and this lot are an enthusiastic bunch.
  • Tuesday: My eldest’s piano lesson introduces a new (and wonderfully tricky) piano piece which he can’t stop tinkering with.
  • Wednesday: At my other son’s swimming squad session I chat with an ex-student who has been an instructor at the pool since graduating. He tells me he’s just completed his first degree and about to begin a Masters of Teaching.
  • Thursday: I receive an email from a (different to the aforementioned) colleague who, after 40 years in the biz, retires this week. In this message to the staff he states,“Teaching is a privilege and, I believe, the greatest occupation there is.  It has been a pleasure working with you.”
  • Friday (today): Next year’s year 7s have joined us for their orientation day. The Cohort includes my son and his friends. The look on all their faces (and their parents’) was priceless.

So, okay. I get it. The message is around me – everywhere – humming with the resonance of a minor fifth played on a Hammond electric organ and fed through a wall of Marshall amps. Time to share.

Be a Teacher… or a teacher. It brings enrichment and joy to the lives of those around you and to yourself.