REPLY BY SHEILA BARRETT, DEAN OF STUDIES & VP
It is my privilege this evening to make the reply on behalf of the awardees, and I do so feeling quite inadequate given all that has happened tonight – the fine speeches, the tributes in song, the video presentation, the fanfares and just the general ambiance. It has all been a bit overwhelming. But you have certainly made us feel special, very special; and it’s a good feeling. So on behalf of the awardees I would really like to thank the Home-School Association and indeed the school for putting together this lovely function in our honour.
Knowing I had to speak this evening on their behalf, I asked a few awardees what they would have liked me to say on their behalf this evening. In all cases there was a pregnant silence, no-one spoke immediately, and then when they did, they never said much, and in most cases just one sentence, but you could hear the emotion in their voices when they spoke. One person said, ‘I met my husband here, I got married, and I had three children’ and I would like to add to that they all came to Campion. I understood what that person was trying to say. Another person simply said, ‘I think I was born for Campion’, another ‘my father chose this job for me and I said I would stay for one year and I have been here for 21 years’; another person simply said ‘Campion has been my home’. Indeed, Campion has been home for many of us.
It is here that we cut our teeth as young teachers, it is here that we were groomed, it is here that we grew and matured, and it is here that some of us blossomed; it is Campion that has made us into the people we are today.
Indeed one of the factors that account for Campion’s startling academic success is the fact that it has retained so many teachers for so long. Yet we are young in years of service, when you realize that there were others who retired after 40 odd years; and here I speak in particular of Mr. Neville Smith and Mr. John Binns. I am now beginning to realize that this is unique.
Many times when we receive applications from persons who are applying for a teaching post at Campion and we look at their CV we see that many of them have taught in so many places, and I am always curious to know why. It just seems strange to me as I have only taught at one place. This was my first teaching job and it has remained my only teaching job.
So last night I sat down and asked myself the question, WHY? Why have so many people stayed at Campion for so long? II came up with three factors which have certainly accounted for my being here so long and I am sure many others.
One of the important things for me was the welcome that I got on entering Campion College. You have to realize that when people like Jean Chin and myself were employed at Campion, Campion was still a private boys school run by American Jesuits. Fr. William Raftery was the Headmaster and he and all the Priests lived in what is now the Staff House and they were THE teachers at Campion. The lay staff, if you called us that, was small in number, so small that our Staff Room then, is now Mrs. Wallace’s office. But we were never made to feel as if we were outsiders; that it was THEM and US. We were welcomed by those Jesuit Fathers who made us feel that we were an important part of the team and we were soon caught up in the Jesuit vision of education.
You know when I taught history and we looked at plantation society, I would distinguish for the students the difference between acculturation and inter-culturation. We looked at how the planter class imposed their beliefs and value system on the slaves (acculturation); and how in turn the slaves subtly influenced the planter class and changed their value system in many ways (inter-culturation).
That was what happened at Campion – inter-culturation. Those Jesuit Fathers led by example and instilled in you that vision and passion for excellence and for turning out men for others–Campion then was a boys’ school.
I remember with great respect, love and admiration Fr. John Ruddy who would walk along the corridor while classes were in session and he might just stop at the door and greet you, “Everything alright Miss Barrett. These boys not giving you any trouble are they”. And the boys would quickly pipe up “No Father”. He might then give a little joke and move on. It was not intrusive, it was family.
A group of us as teachers played badminton at night on the old badminton court which would have been right outside the priests’ residence. You would have thought this would have been a problem for them, but it wasn’t – they welcomed it, and many of them would come and sit on the benches and chat with us. Fr. Ashe, of blessed memory, was a regular. It was as if he looked forward to us being there as he was there every night.
I still have fond memories of Fr. Ruddy and myself doing the can-can in the middle of what is now the teachers’ parking lot spinning around in a circle with our feet going up and down in the air, and he would say, “Lets show them Miss Barrett that I have some life left in me yet”. That was the relationship that existed between the priests and us. Some of us still cherish the guidance we received from people like Fr. Welsh, Fr. Riel and Fr. Farrell.
Gone are the days when Campion teachers are mostly priests but I think that that spirit of family that was engendered then is still at Campion. Teachers who have left Campion and gone on to greener pastures still return and still feel themselves a part of the Campion family.
Secondly, Campion has been blessed with excellent administrators in its Principals. They have given effective and inspired leadership, and have shown excellent organizational skills. It is true to say that Campion runs like a well oiled machine – everything in place as resources will allow. When the new school year begins nobody is floundering around not knowing where there class is, as the timetable is not ready as I often hear happens in some schools. As a teacher at Campion you feel you are working in a highly organized and structured environment.
No principal of Campion takes holidays during the summer. They are too busy preparing for the next school year.
Every principal at Campion has had an open door policy. As a teacher you do not have to make an appointment to see the principal. As long as they are not engaged with anyone you can simply step into their office and speak with them. You do not have to be on your P’s and Q’s to speak with them. They have all been approachable. You are free to complain, offer suggestions for improvement or just talk about some personal problem that you might be having. But the style of each person is different.
The principal most people found most daunting was Mr. Mackay, because he just listened. You might enter his office full of passion and even anger about some incident with a student or some problem you encountered and he would just sit back silently in his chair and listen, not saying a word. Sometimes you could not even read the expression on his face. It is just blank. You were not sure what he was thinking. You wish he would say something, so you could continue to argue your point and rebut, but no he sits quietly looking at you and taking it all in until you peter out, and then very quietly and very succinctly he responds to your concerns.
Now Mr. Reid was the total opposite of Mr. Mackay. He lets you know immediately from his expression what he is thinking as you speak to him and he is very quick to jump in to contradict or show support for what you are saying, and he does it with a lot of emotion and passion.
Now Mrs. Baston is in between. She will sit silently and let you speak not saying a word, but when you are finished you are in no doubt as to how she feels on the matter. In fact you need to be careful what you say to her as she has the gift of memorizing and repeating every word you had said without writing it down so you better not be inconsistent or she will show you up.
As principals they were available to us as teachers, they offered advice, they encouraged and they counselled. Many teachers felt free to discuss even their personal problems with them. Nobody was ever turned away. Their expectations of us as teachers were high and we were encouraged to meet those expectations. They encouraged creativity and new ideas. Campion has indeed been blessed in having excellent administrators and we do thank them for the various ways in which they have assisted in our personal growth and development.
Thirdly for me are the students. I have enjoyed working with the Campion students. They provide us with good material to work with. When we work hard and they co-operate with us, you can see the results of your labour in the excellent academic results that are attained. They make you feel fulfilled as a teacher. At Campion we run a tight ship and so for the most part the disciplinary problems that we face are not major. Oh there are challenges, many challenges, but for the most part we have many lovely students that it is a joy to work with. We too have learned from our students as they have learned from us. I loved teaching at the sixth form level. There you had a more relaxed approach with your students as they were now more mature and thinking at another level. Many of them have challenged us and this has enabled us to grow as teachers.
We enjoy a great relationship with many of our students and many of them still come back to visit long after they have left, gone to University and even got married. In fact I look forward each year to the meeting with the parents of our new first formers as each year you can be sure to have a few past students in the group with their young one and they are quick to bring them to meet you as one of the teachers who taught them in school.
So in short, for many of us, we are here because once you come to Campion you are part of a family – a family that cares. And so I thank God that 36 years ago he led me here and I will always say thanks to Campion, the Jesuit Fathers, its Principals and its students for helping to make me and all of us the people we are today. THANK YOU.