Back to school: Dr White shares faith and learning

Learning wasn’t confined to the classroom, or to the students, when Executive Director of Sydney Catholic Schools Dr Dan White became acting principal for a week at Holy Spirit College Lakemba.

Dr White said the initiative, from May 4 to 8, was an opportunity to have an in-depth discussion with teachers and parents on how to best cater for students with disabilities and deliver vocational and gifted education programs. It also allowed him to hear about the challenges teachers now face.

“The opportunity to sit and chat with staff and see firsthand the impact that the demands made by governments on schools can have on their workloads helps me a lot when looking at our next strategic plan to see how we can look at strengthening teacher wellbeing,” he said.

Dr White also gave year 12 students HSC study tips and taught Religious Education classes, including one on the journeys of St Paul to an attentive Year 8 class.

Students adopted a ‘pass the parcel’ approach to note-taking, sharing the responsibility as they listened to the saint’s journey from Jerusalem to Athens, where he appealed to the Greek’s sense of logic but failed to convert them as they could not believe in a god who was weak enough to be crucified. They then heard about how St Paul converted many in the port town of Corinth and wrote the epistles which Dr White described as the first ‘e-mails’, copied by scribes and widely circulated.

It has been great to be reminded of why I love teaching so much.

– Dr Dan White

The talk was grounded in social and political context of the time, with students learning how the silversmiths of Ephesus were upset with St Paul for denting their business selling statues of Greek goddess Artemis to townspeople and visitors as more Christian converts were made.

Dr White also ran a spirituality afternoon for staff and said he had enjoyed “a fabulous week of learning”.
“The opportunity for me to share my faith in a number of classes with students and staff has been a great thrill,” he said.

“I’ve really enjoyed interacting with the kids, going to the footy with them, and seeing them practice for concerts. It has been great to be reminded of why I love teaching so much.”

Year 12 leadership team members met with Dr White on his visit and talked about their school’s strengths.

“We have a great student-teacher relationship at this school and it’s very community based so anyone who comes here would definitely feel welcomed,” said school captain Talita Ata, 17.

Vice captain Dane Stephens, 17, said he got to appreciate his school’s cultural diversity while at a Jospehite camp with schools from around the state, where there were less nationalities represented within their communities. He also listened to Dr White’s talks on HSC study tips and teaching as a career.

“Focusing on the ‘one per centers’ and doing the little things that would make a big difference in terms of our ATAR marks was advice you can relate to anything in life – doing the little things and getting it right,” Dane said.

“The memorable teachers I’ve had have been able to shape the person I am today, contributing to my ability to learn and develop as a person. I think I would be interested in doing that [teaching].”

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