It’s All About The Teacher

it's all about the teacher
I managed to get time to read the paper this weekend and I’m glad I did because I came across a fantastic story written by Susan Johnson in the QWeekend Magazine in the Courier Mail.

The story was very close to home, it was about an amazing maths teacher called ‘Sir’ or ‘Mr. Penrose’ and how he’s transformed the opportunities and abilities of high school kids at a high school not far from me. His teaching methods helps kids to understand and enjoy math and has supported them to a level they’d never expected, going from failing math to being able to eventually study engineering at university.

The beginning of the article started with, “Hello, I’m Mr. Penrose. Anyone here born rich?” Not a single student rose their hand. “No? Me either. Let’s get you an education then.”

Mr. Penrose wasn’t always a maths teacher though, starting off life at the meat works where he was responsible for tallying up the meat with great speed and accuracy. It was at this job that alarm bells rang and he realised that it was an education he needed to go where he wanted and so he did his senior year over again at night school and got into University where he would study pure Mathematics.

I wish I had Mr. Penrose in high school, perhaps I wouldn’t have hated Math so much, I couldn’t’ understand it and had shitty support.

Before reading this article, I was very much in the mindset that your success in school has a lot to do with the teachers, not only the way they teach but their passion for the topic they teach.  I can honestly say that I didn’t have one teacher that was like that in high school. I truly believe that if I had a teacher that followed through with their comments on assignments and exams, offered more support or perhaps made their classes more interesting, I would have done much better.

Fast forward to my university years and as someone who hated math and numbers and almost flunked maths full stop (and that was the easy maths), I got distinctions in Accounting and Statistics.

What was the difference?

I actually enjoyed what I was learning and the topics were taught well, in a way I understood.

Mr. Penrose supports my experience by saying in the article, “Everybody should be able to learn maths…it just depends on the stimulus they receive.” I truly believe this.

This brings me to schooling and Elliott. I know he’s only young, a month shy of 3, but I’m big on education. I have a number of schools in mind where I’d like to send Elliott when the time comes but my problem is (and what I worry about the most) is that I might not send him to the right school.

You can’t really pick and choose your teachers or take them on a trial run even. It’s all good sending Elliott to a school which I believe is great, but when it comes down to the teacher, how do I really know?

To me, picking a school for Elliott is a huge gamble. I certainly don’t ever want to get to a point where I have to take him out of a school and move him to another, so I wonder how to get it right in the first place? Were the people that sent their kids to Mr. Penrose’s school and whose kids ended up in his class just lucky?

I know there’s not going to be a Mr. Penrose in every school, so I guess the best I can do is my thorough research and ask questions. The reality is that not every teacher loves their job or has the passion that Mr. Penrose does. I just hope that when it comes to Elliott’s schooling, he has the opportunity to have a teacher that will guide and support him because his future is essentially in their hands.

So how did you select your child’s school? How did you know the teaching abilities of the teachers at the school?



Eva Lewis (The Multitasking Woman)

Eva Lewis (The Multitasking Woman)

Eva is the Editor and Owner of The Multitasking Woman. She always has her fingers in many different pies but wouldn't have it any other way. Eva is a freelance writer, a social media manager, a Mum to her six-year-old son, one-year-old daughter, six chickens and Benny the dog and wife to Mr G. They all live happily in their little worker's cottage in Ipswich, Queensland, Australia.
Eva Lewis (The Multitasking Woman)

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  1. November 3, 2014 / 6:14 am

    I was very picky with schools, to the point where I removed my Daughter from one after just five weeks, followed a few months later by her siblings. I don’t think you should waste time when it comes to education at any level. Their current school had the most amazing Principal at the time. One of a handful of genuine leaders and educators I have ever met.

    • November 4, 2014 / 10:17 pm

      Totally agree with you Jody. I too am very big on education, it opens the door to so many opportunities in life and is one of those things that you just can’t get enough of.

  2. November 3, 2014 / 6:18 am

    It’s an important topic, we’ve only just been talking about enrolling Liam in a kindergarten soon – but which one we enrol him will influence which school he goes too. It’s too hard!

    • November 4, 2014 / 10:15 pm

      I know what you mean. I’ve been thinking of a kindergarten too. There’s one attached to the daycare he’s in, but there’s also one which I’ve heard great things about attached to the school where I’d love to send him from prep…but I just don’t know, it’s such a huge gamble..educationally and financially. But in the end, education is so very important and I want to do what’s best.

  3. Lucy @ Bake Play Smile
    November 3, 2014 / 6:20 am

    Hi Eva, From a teachers perspective, the very best thing you can do is ask to have a tour of the school (not on a planned tour day – just a pop in tour). This way you’ll see classrooms and teachers how they really run. Make sure you have a chat to the teachers as you walk through and check out the kids work that’s displayed in the rooms. Ask the principal what the schools vision and focus is and see if that matches up with your own ideals. Good luck! xx

    • November 4, 2014 / 10:13 pm

      Thanks Lucy!

  4. November 3, 2014 / 6:43 am

    I actually just enrolled my little girl in Prep for next year. It was a big leap into her future so I do get where you are coming from. I think that no matter how much research you do into a school in general you will never be able to pick the magic teachers, especially since they can change year to year. And FYI – I hated maths!

    • November 4, 2014 / 10:13 pm

      I think you’re right Malinda, I just have to hope that a school with a good reputation get’s its reputation because of their teachers. Yep, I hated maths too..but I often wonder why I did because now I wouldn’t mind getting into it.

  5. November 3, 2014 / 7:12 am

    My daughter is at a fabulous primary school but my head is spinning about high school already. It is so hard to get a feel of what teachers are like in a school until you are really there. I remember having some great maths teachers.

    • November 4, 2014 / 10:11 pm

      I think that’s my problem, I seem to be worrying about highschool more than primary. I think it’s also because there’s options to send him to a school that starts from prep right through to grade 12 or to start him at primary and then he’d have to go to a completely different school. It’s also the money factor, I’d really like to send Elliott to a private highschool at least, but who knows where we will be financially all that time away…but really, we need to start putting money aside now. arghhh

  6. November 3, 2014 / 9:55 pm

    My kids are enrolled in the school that I went to. I had teachers like Mr. Penrose and think that the school community is great. My son starts next year and we were there this afternoon for orientation and got to meet all the teachers. I am happy with our choice but it is a very hard decision. Good luck with choosing a school for Elliot.

    • November 4, 2014 / 10:09 pm

      That is so great that you’re sending your kids to the same school and that you had such a wonderful experience. I think that I’m just going to have to keep a good ear out for recommendations from other parents.

  7. Bubfriendly Winnie
    November 3, 2014 / 10:29 pm

    We are faced by this daunting and difficult task at the moment too. Lil Miss 3 is going to kindy soon – we recently attempted to ask for a tour of a local school that ‘hubby/daddy’ went to, however the principal was too busy on both occasions to show us around. Instead she has asked us to return and join the weekly playgroup at the school where we can ask other parents and the lady that runs the playgroup whatever questions we have so that is certainly what we are going to do. I really enjoyed maths whilst at school, it was my favourite subject! I really hope that there will be more Mr Penrose’s around but sometimes its hard to know isn’t it? Good luck with your search in a school for Elliot too!!! x

    • November 4, 2014 / 10:08 pm

      What a shame the principal was ‘too busy’…I think I’d be a little disappointed with that. If I was given the opportunity to redo maths, I’d jump at it. Good luck to you too!

  8. Joy and Pops
    November 4, 2014 / 2:20 am

    I completely sympathise with your experience of disliking maths and the maths teacher being a big part of the problem. Mine were dismissive and uninspiring to someone who was struggling anyway. By contrast my English teachers were full of life and interesting. Any surprise that I ended up with a Literature degree and a job writing – maths didn’t really get off the ground!
    As to picking a school, we didn’t have a choice living in a village we only had one school to choose from. We’re are super lucky that so far my daughter is happy and thriving. I do find myself being a bit suspicious of the teachers though (they seem lovely!!), I’m just very aware that a bad experience now could shape her academic future.
    We have more school choice at secondary school and I’m sure I will tie myself in knots trying to figure out the best move. We’re all just trying to make the best decisions.
    Good luck, with your help I’m sure Elliot will do fine! Xx

    • November 4, 2014 / 10:06 pm

      You’re lucky you had great English teachers too, mine were terrible and didn’t really teach me anything, all I remember doing is sitting in class reading novels aloud and watching movies to critique. I don’t reckon they’d believe me if I went back and told them I made a living writing now. Lol. That’s exactly how I feel about a bad experience shaping my sons academic future….that’s what happened to me (although a lot of what I do now and get paid to do is self taught and a lot of hard work) but it does limit opportunity. That’s great to hear your daughter is enjoying school and that’s all we can do, make the best decisions with the information we’re armed with.

  9. TeganMC
    November 9, 2014 / 7:48 pm

    A teacher really can make or break a child. It’s not even about the subject they are teaching, but the relationship they have with the students. I had a teacher at school whose support will stay with me for the rest of my life, even though the subject she taught was one that I excelled at easily. I think that a *bad* teacher can ruin a subject for a student, even if they really, really love it.

    As for choosing a school, we went with one that is close to home because I don’t have a car. We had our prep orientation last week and it put me at so much ease with our choice. The teacher and the principal were both lovely.

  10. November 17, 2014 / 7:58 am

    Maths and science were like that for me too. I was in dummy maths and just did not get it, and never had teachers who cared. I was great at English and several wonderful teachers. I actually wrote a letter to my year twelve literature teacher just last week, to say thank you – I got the school award for English lit, but only because she pushed me in just the right way. That was 22 years ago.
    Dani @Sand Has No Home

  11. November 19, 2014 / 10:41 am

    I think you are right in your concerns and doing your research is really the only way that is going to help you make an informed decisions, visit the schools, ask lots of questions of different people connected with the schools, schools usually have school opinion surveys that are completed annually, so see if you could see the results of these, they are usually completed by all staff and then randomly selected parents and students. In your child’s 13 years of schooling I certainly hope he gets a couple of Mr Penrose’s.. Good luck