Is PE a science? Should teachers and students work closer together? How does one balance being a father and teacher at the same time? Mr. Packer answers these questions and shares his perspective with us.

What do you enjoy most about being Rutherford’s House Leader?

I’ve taught in a lot of different schools overseas, in Wellington, and in Auckland. When I came to Macleans, it was a school I really identified with; Macleans as a school is a place where you feel comfortable. When you narrow that down to Rutherford, it’s the place where I feel comfortable. I like the structure the school has put into place. I like the opportunities the students are given and I like the way there is a real emphasis on students being the best they can. Those are things that we value in Rutherford as well and that’s the reason I enjoy it.

Where did you teach overseas?

I taught in England, in Bath. The school I taught in over there was a fee paying school, and was really high achieving. When you got through to Year 11, if your exam results weren’t good enough you’d have to go to another school even though you were paying the money. So it was a real high-pressure school. Until I came here, I had never been in a school where I could relieve a class, just give them work, walk out, and every kid would thank you. So those are the values that you see in action.

You’ve taught in a lot of different schools, but specifically in Macleans, is there anything you feel your students have taught you?

You’ve got to realise that teachers are always learning as well. So, there’s lots. The thing that most impresses me about students is just that desire to be the best they can. At times, that means they put a little too much pressure on themselves to achieve academically but it’s a real focus and desire. There are some students here who are just freaks—who are in the orchestra, the chorale, have high achievement in academics, are involved in sport—you know they’re just kids that really grasp life and make the most of it. Sometimes, they just blow me away.

What can you tell us about your teaching in physical education?

People think that PE teachers teach sport. But we’re not sports teachers: the way we as PE teachers look at it, sport and PE are two totally different things. Physical education is a science that’s applied to the body. One of my real focuses as a teacher is that there has to be an enjoyment factor. It can’t be in every lesson because there’s times where you just have to get your head down and do the work. But I believe that every student has a spark and it’s our job as teachers to find that spark.

In physical education, as a science, what unit do you like teaching the most?

The one we’re doing at the moment, Sociology. That’s all about critical thinking. We’re doing things like how sport can influence society, like through the black lives matter movement, through the issue of whether sports is fair in relation to people who are transgender, and all kinds of things like that. That’s one where students can really express themselves; there are no right or wrong answers. It’s really an exciting unit.

We know that you’re a teacher, obviously, but you’re also a father and you have children attending Macleans. How do you balance those two roles?

I think that the more important of the two is being a father. It’s lucky that Macleans is a big school, so if my kids don’t want me to see them then I don’t see them. I don’t teach either of them at school and so my role is just as a father to them around the school if I see them. If one of them had their socks down or something like that I’d school them. I’ve only given one of them a detention. They don’t get any favours, but my job is to be a father. As to part of the reason my daughter chose to go down to the opposite side of the school, her words were: “When I’m in Year 9 and 10 I’ll probably want to be around you. I know when I’m a senior, I won’t want to see you too much. I’d want to be on the other end of the school.”

Is there a message that you believe that students in Macleans need to hear at this point in time?

Most students here seem to have gotten their heads around why they’re here: there’s a real academic focus. My personal message is that your teachers want you to do well, and what are you doing to help your teachers? I’ve been in schools where students and teachers have been on two sides of the fence, and when I was at school we used to be like that. We used to try to get away with something if we could. We worked against our teachers and learnt despite our teachers, not because of our teachers. Here I think we’re getting very close to, but not quite close enough to students and teachers working together a lot more. The message would be to make sure you work with your teachers. Students need to know that your teachers actually want you to do well.

Is there anything else you’d like to say?

Just to realise how amazingly good this school is. And again, because I’ve been in different schools I know what schools can be like. I think a lot of kids here think that Macleans is just a normal school. It’s not; it’s far from it. No school is perfect by any means, and there are lots of things we could be doing better around here. But this place is pretty amazing.

Interview conducted by Palash Manthalkar and Ermina Tajik. Publication of transcript, with minor revisions, finalised on 20/09/2020. Original header image supplied by The Collegian.

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