Does Hillary House make Ms. Hon proud? What gold nuggets of wisdom does she have to share with those entering the adult world? As well as further insights from your local chemistry teacher.

What can you tell us about your experiences with being a House Leader?

I love being a house leader. I love being involved with the kids. I think if I can walk alongside them on their journey to growing up, it gives me great pleasure, watching them from Year 9 to leaving at Year 13, knowing that they are on a good pathway. We have helped them equip them with the right moral attitude, you know, being a good contributing person when they go out to society. Especially when I have ratbags at Year 9 and Year 10, and you watch them change in the last few years of their life, actually growing up and being mature and responsible. I really enjoy that challenge.

That’s really inspiring. Is there anything about Hillary House that you’re particularly proud of?

I’m really proud of that I’ve never had any complaints towards my kids for not doing the right thing. They are always pleasant and polite, they are not rude, they do the right thing, and they always have manners—I’m really proud of that. Very few of the Hillary kids actually get serious discipline. In all my twelve years here, very few have had to go up to face the principal and the Board of Trustees.

Is this due to your strong discipline within the house?

Well, I’m a strict mom. I treat them like my children, because I would expect them to behave well, be respectful of each other and the staff members, and actually to be honest and take responsibility when they have done wrong. My pet hate is when people lie to me. I like honesty; if they have done wrong, they should admit it. I will do my best to try and help them and rectify the situation. I will even escort them to staff members, and help them apologise properly and do the right thing to make things right. I believe that a child has to face the staff: you spend time with the staff for the rest of the year, so you’ve got to make it right, otherwise it will affect your learning. If the teacher doesn’t feel comfortable with the child in the class, they will not do their best either.

Do you have any tips you would like to share with Year 13 students and those heading into the adult world?

Don’t be afraid to ask questions when in doubt. If your gut feeling tells you something is not right, don’t do it. In the back of your mind, always ask, “Will my parents approve of this action?”, and “Am I going to be safe?” Your safety and the safety of the people around you are important; your gut feeling will tell you whether you are safe and whether you are hurting people.

And if something isn’t right, don’t be afraid to change. Because when you leave school at eighteen/nineteen, you are still learning. You go to university and everyone at university might be wanting to be a doctor, and it might not be your thing. Change. After one or two years, change. Don’t be afraid. And don’t think of it as a waste of time—anything you learn is not a waste of time.

Is there anything different with teaching at Macleans compared to other schools?

The main thing is that I’m teaching co-ed instead of all girls. Is it a significant difference? Not really. I think students who are keen to learn will always be there. The only thing I noticed which was a difference is that boys don’t have long memories. If you tell them off, they will still say “hello” to you the next day. I know in my experience (I’ve been a teacher for so long, since 1983) girls tend to have long memories. No matter what you do, if you’ve done something wrong, and you don’t make it right, they will remember that and they will ignore you for a while. That’s the difference between teaching just girls, and boys. But in terms of school, it’s the same. The last school I was in was a highly academic school, and we also had very high expectations. So no difference in that. Teachers all work hard no matter what school you go to.

Growing up, did you have any childhood dreams?

Not really. Just to have fun! I think when you’re a child, you focus on the short term and don’t really make big plans.

Do you reckon you’re having fun?

Ah, not so much as an adult—you’ve got so much responsibility. I have fun every day with the kids I teach, and I really enjoy being in the classroom, ‘cause it’s good to have a laugh. The most important thing to me as a teacher is in the classroom situation that they’re actually enjoying my subject. They may not be very good at it, but at least they will work with me to do their best and enjoy the subject.

Is chemistry the best subject?

I took chemistry because I actually love chemistry, but I didn’t develop the love until I went to university. I used to fall asleep in my chemistry class because my chemistry teacher was so boring.

Interview conducted by Nancy Qiang and Ellen Wang. Transcript published on 11/09/2020, with minor edits for concision and clarity. Header image supplied by The Collegian.

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