Christian Education

Going to the heart of education – the story of a great mentor

Sports fans will know coaches who produce players who become coaches themselves. Or political junkies can name pollies who inspired the next generation.

The same goes for school leaders. The proof is in the life of Rod West: and the affluent headmasters whom the head of Sydney’s Trinity Grammar trained. In the Shakespearean sense, I mean “tributary”: of a long line of people who honor a great person.

“It is an honor to give the first Roderick West Oration, an educator I was unworthy of wearing a beach towel and flip flops,” began Phillip Heath, headmaster of Barker School in northern Sydney. His task is to examine West’s ideal of “education of the heart,” which has influenced so many, and determine if it is still possible to do so. Or worth doing.

The event also featured the launch of a fundraiser to endow the Roderick and Janet West Professorial Chair in Christian Education Leadership at Alphacrucis College. This proposal is considered the first chair of Christian education in over 100 years and is part of the growing ties between the Alphacrucis education team and independent schools.

Former Prime Minister John Howard officially launched the Professorial Chair via video praising the importance of Christian education.

The influence of a great pedagogue

West Quote Sydney Morning Herald obituary, Heath noted that West had established a sort of nursery of school principals at Trinity.

“Of the teachers who worked under West, 31 became principals or principals, including Dr Tim Wright, Principal of Shore School, Phillip Heath, Principal of Barker College and Graham Anderson, Principal of the Anglican School Arden.

“Evangelical in terms of doctrine but favoring a broad outlook, West was for years a member of the Anglican Synod of Sydney. At least 50 boys he instructed became ministers, including 44 Anglicans.

Heath describes himself as “a former captain of a modest Catholic school in Bellambi, someone who had experienced his own reformation of sorts”, doing his masters in history under Stuart Piggin on the “deep debate on the redemption theology as articulated by 17th century English”. Puritans John Owen and Richard Baxter.

“Stuart Piggin, in a moment of weakness, had to mention my name to his uncle, Rod West, the manager of Trinity. I see no other reason why Mr West would be willing to meet someone like me who grew up in the fibro-clad Housing Commission housing at Sandon Point in the northern suburb of Wollongong.

“I remember well my first visit to Trinity on an extremely hot Tuesday afternoon in late November. I was captivated beyond words to see the boys of the First XI cricket team dressed in white practicing at the center wicket of the Trinity Main Oval. I had only ever seen school children playing cricket on concrete pitches with mats.

“Our interview for a history position at Trinity was mainly to discuss Moravian piety and their contribution to Christian mission – not much out of the seven sets of English and history I was on the point of receiving at 22 to teach a few weeks later.”

This personal story puts into perspective the extensive work of Heath, as Principal of St Andrews Cathedral School and Barker, to create First Nations schools that are truly owned by local communities.

West’s passionate faith has defined his philosophy of education, learning and leadership

At Trinity, West demanded Herculean effort from staff, following his own example. But in Heath’s account, it wasn’t just intellectual exertion or extended hours. It was spiritual work.

“Like the apostles on the shores of the Sea of ​​Galilee, we have been called to leave everything behind and follow him into the wonderful world of service in education.”

“Rod West did not name his staff, as we might now understand a contract position in a human resources setting – he called on them to participate in a sublime quest: to educate his Trinity boys.

“This education would be accomplished in a loving, sacrificial yet ambitious manner, following his example as a complete schoolmaster in the finest tradition and a complete Christian where the character of Christ permeated his every thought.

“Like the apostles on the shores of the Sea of ​​Galilee, we have been called to leave everything behind and follow him into the wonderful world of service in education.”

Heath points out that West was appointed leader when Whitlam was prime minister.

“Leadership in schools is very different now, depriving its leaders of much of the romantic flair that flourished in previous generations. The Philosopher King is but a memory and the good oratory has been undermined by the need for brevity and clever mastery of visual media. ”

Tracing changes in society since West, Heath identified a “burden of pain” and a “loss of meaning” as calling for “a new expression of old truths; and a new leadership metaphor that seeks the transmission of loving personality.

“We need… virtuous, compassionate, helpful, visionary, forgiving and courageous leadership.”

The view of Christians who engage in our society as “leading in love and service” has not changed.

Each of us must realize this ideal in his sphere, his work, his vocation.

Heath defined his task this way. “The principal’s role is to create the learning society within a school; nurture and shape its ethos; to influence its climate and provide a safe place for children, young people, their teachers and parents to live safely in mind and spirit, free from fear of exclusion or rejection , deeply imbued with love every day and in every way.

“We need learning experts, of course, to stimulate minds and deepen the knowledge available. But following the journey of Roderick Ian West, we need leadership for all ages – leadership that is virtuous, compassionate, helpful, visionary, forgiving and courageous. “

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