International Grammar School Sydney: School Visit

At the end of 2015, I had the hon­our of vis­it­ing Inter­na­tion­al Gram­mar School in Syd­ney to address the Year Sev­en cohort about Empire of the Waves. It was an espe­cial­ly won­der­ful hon­our for me, invit­ed as the guest of one Mr Tim­o­thy Lester. Tim had been my Eng­lish teacher at Trin­i­ty Gram­mar School in Sum­mer Hill not once, but three times, in Year Eight, Year Eleven and Year Twelve.

This might have proved our shared mis­for­tune. Yet, hap­pi­ly, it was oth­er­wise.

In fact, and I will put it on the record here, Tim was my favourite high school Eng­lish teacher. And that real­ly is say­ing some­thing, as I had absolute­ly won­der­ful high school Eng­lish teach­ers. The Eng­lish Depart­ment at Trin­i­ty Gram­mar School in the 1990s, under the lead­er­ship of Robert Dick­ins and then Allan Pride, was tru­ly some­thing to behold.

Tim was one of the first teach­ers to real­ly encour­age my own devel­op­ment as a writer — both as a crit­ic of lit­er­a­ture, and as a cre­ator. I flour­ished in his class­es, and loved every oppor­tu­ni­ty to pur­sue my pas­sion for writ­ing. I am grate­ful for all the extra read­ing Tim encour­aged. Like a lot of my friends from that time, I remem­ber fond­ly how Tim also intro­duced us to Alan Par­tridge, Whose Line Is It Any­way?, and The Day Today, among oth­er clas­sics of British com­e­dy. These, along with even more sub­ver­sive fare, helped turn us into con­fi­dent cul­tur­al omni­vores.

Com­ing at the end of a long year, I was wor­ried the IGS stu­dents might be more inter­est­ed in their forth­com­ing hol­i­days than Empire of the Waves, a wor­ry com­pound­ed by the fact I was speak­ing dur­ing the last peri­od of the day.

I need not have been con­cerned.

The stu­dents were not only atten­tive, wel­com­ing and kind, but also utter­ly engag­ing. After a read­ing from the first chap­ter of the nov­el I spoke for half an hour about the writ­ing process, and how I came to cre­ate the world of Salila. Then we broke off into groups to cre­ate our own pirate clans! This was such an enter­tain­ing­ly hilar­i­ous activ­i­ty that I will be devel­op­ing and expand­ing it for future work­shops.

A very suc­cess­ful school vis­it indeed, and how won­der­ful to spend it with Tim Lester and his cur­rent cohort of stu­dents. I am quite sure anoth­er gen­er­a­tion of young minds will recall what chal­lenges and joys they derived from Tim’s class­es, and no doubt a few more young writ­ers too.

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