Newington College

Mr Parker narrowly avoids detention on Golden Ticket Day

Mr Parker narrowly avoids detention on Golden Ticket Day

As you can see from the photos, Friday was my annual ‘Golden Ticket’ Day, in which a randomly selected student gets to have me come to all of their classes, do all of their work and do all of their homework for one day. The winner this year was Will C in Year 9. As usual it was a lot of fun and I learned a lot as well.

But to start with the most challenging part of the day – Period 3 in the strength and conditioning centre with Mr Muir and Mr Black. I had received an email the day before from Mr Muir threatening a long detention if I failed to bring my PE uniform, and I couldn’t see Will having to do two hours for my sake. So, with a group of six students I ended up doing a challenging circuit of strength and conditioning, thinking that would be all. Little did I know it was actually four circuits of pushups, squats, chin-ups and dips. For the last three sets of chin ups I basically just hung from the bars and hoped the countdown would go faster. Will got to sit in a comfortable chair for much of it (but Mr Muir got him to do a couple of circuits in the end and Will comprehensively beat me on the chin-ups count).

Maths began inauspiciously with me getting all of the trigonometry wrong (why didn’t I remember SOHCAHTOA from 1983, I ask myself) but got better as I graphed equations with Ms Stimpson and was able to award the Maths student of the week. Students got increasingly used to calling me ‘Will’ and I was able to angle for a merit for him. History had me rediscovering how World War 1 ended and playing an alphabet game with Mr Shen. Philosophy and Religious Studies had me doing an activity with Mr Giles in which we passed around pieces of paper and wrote progressive intrinsic goals.

By the afternoon, Will was getting more relaxed. Whilst I was regaled with stories of nuclear fusion from Mr Davies in Science, Will kicked back with a pair of headphones, some Drake tunes and cucumber slices over his eyes (as pictured). And he wandered about Industrial Design and Timber whilst I worked the lathe for him – all explained to me very carefully by Ms Isbister.

As always, the ‘Golden Ticket’ was a great way to see an excellent and varied group of teachers give productive, thoughtful, engaging and even inspiring lessons. There was a genuine sense that I just went into the ‘next’ lesson in the unit, rather than it being presented with a bespoke lesson for my benefit. As a student, the importance of variety, gamification, engaging presentation, clarity and the capacity to move around all became clearer to me.

Importantly for me I re-engaged on World War 1 in History, which was one of my focuses at University in the late 1980s. Much was the same – Germany still lost – but much was different for me. After having spent years in my youth studying World War 1 as a story of military blunders, class, and politics, the passing of 40 years reinforced the human horror of the War as the cutting down of a generation. In the 100 day battle in early 1918 we looked at in class, 450 000 Germans and 750 000 Allies lost their lives. ‘That is every child on assembly, multiplied by a thousand’ I thought. ‘That is every child in NSW’. And that was just one hundred day battle towards the end of a four year war. The grief, the waste and the hubris of the generals struck me so much more forcefully as a teacher, a parent and as an older man.

On a broader level it is such a shame that adults don’t get a few months per decade to go back to school – there is so much to learn or relearn. At a Newington level, it is great to see the school classes firing on all cylinders, delivering interesting, high quality lessons to students who are engaged and keen to be there. On an individual level I hope that Will got to relax and chill out (further) in preparation for his weekend.