Popular history teacher Robin Palmer is retiring after a stellar 42-year teaching career including the past 19 years at New South Wales’ M.E.T. campuses in Meadowbank and Kellyville.
During her time at M.E.T. Robin has seen many changes within the education system as well as OneSchool itself. When she first started at M.E.T. in 1997 classes were small. Fast forward to 2016 and not only have class sizes increased, but so has the size of the campuses.
“I suppose I’ve been in a unique position to see and chart the changes from 1997 when I first started,” says Robin. “I always remember my first class – only 5 students - Gavin Horsfall, Elyssa Deayton and three Fooks’ – Scott, Karen and Ella.”
Since then Robin has had literally hundreds of students go through her classes, and although she has fond memories of them all, she also has a soft spot for the parents, too. “I have very good memories of all the wonderful parents I've met over the years, who have been very supportive of me,” says Robin. “It's hard to believe that I have known some parents for 19 years.”
And what about changes – both good and bad – in the educational system since she started teaching? “I think the good and bad can be summed up in one word – technology,” says Robin. “When I first started there were no computers, no mobile phones allowed and not even a fax. [Technology] has been challenging in the classroom as many students are focusing on their laptops and not on what is being taught. However, in a positive sense, the students now have access to a wealth of knowledge from different sources and don't need to rely on just consulting the textbook.”
Some say teaching is a vocation, and it has had its trying moments over the years, however, Robin has enjoyed her time at M.E.T immensely. “Teaching is very demanding, but also extremely rewarding,” says Robin. “I've learned that some students who can be very challenging in Years 7-10, suddenly transform in Year 11 and become very likeable! You can have a joke and a laugh with them, but they know their limits.”
What about her favourite memories? “It would be teaching students who were struggling with the subject, then through sheer hard work and determination, were able to achieve a great result in the HSC,” she says. “I have been inspired by those students and it's always good to feel that you have made a difference.”
Robin has several tips for teachers who are about to embark on what can be a very rewarding career.
“You have to feel that you will make a difference to children's learning, so you have to be idealistic,” says Robin. “You also have to be practical and be prepared for an enormous workload, not only lesson preparation and all that goes with it, but the amount of admin as well. You should constantly give positive reinforcement to students and acknowledge their efforts, no matter how small. Be positive, but if you are struggling, you need to talk to other staff members as shared experiences makes a difference to how well you cope. Lastly, know your subject inside and out.”
What now for Robin, as she embarks on her well-deserved retirement? Well, she’s not ready to take it easy just yet.
“Maybe some travel, particularly to Asia, which is a favourite place and there is so much history there,” she says. “Maybe some volunteer work. I would like to continue to do some teaching as I'm not quite done yet, so I plan to do tutoring in English and history. [I’ll] also do some part-time work teaching English through one of the many coaching colleges that are around.”
Finally, a big thank-you from all the students and staff – both past and present – to Robin and her commitment to our children and making M.E.T. a great place to learn and we wish her well on her retirement.