ISNZ Teacher Profile: Rob Griffiths, Head of Faculty, Languages, and Classics Teacher, St Cuthbert’s College
Can you give us some background on your teaching career? How did you start off in teaching, and what made you decide to become a teacher?
I remember the exact day as a seven-year-old in primary school that I knew I wanted to become a teacher. I didn’t exactly know why I wanted to be a teacher back then, but over time, I knew that it would allow me to combine my love of working with young people and my love of studying the ancient world. I was offered my first job on a Friday back in 2009 while I was studying towards my Diploma of Teaching and was told to start on the Monday! It was a nervous weekend!
Were there enlightening moments or inspirational people to set you on your way to a career in education?
I owe my first debt of gratitude to my parents who really encouraged and supported my choice of profession. They told me to follow my heart. I was also very fortunate to have some outstanding teachers at school who have positively influenced and shaped my own practice. I remember their top teaching tricks and now use them myself! I have even worked with one of my former teachers when we both taught at the same school.
You teach Latin & Classics, can you tell us the story behind your passion for the subject?
This is more an embarrassing acknowledgement than an inspiring story. As a Form 3 student, Latin was a compulsory subject. I couldn’t understand why we were being forced to learn a dead language and I complained accordingly when I got home after the first day. However, I quickly realised that I was fascinated by the ancient world and its people, language, cultures and customs. What teenage boy wouldn’t love reading about gladiator fights and hedonistic Roman dinner parties? It quickly became my favourite subject at school and then I started Classics in Form 6. The rest, as they say, is history!
How would you describe your teaching style?
Unconventional. I have a tendency to become over-excited at times which can make my students over-excited as well. I love teaching my subjects and get such pleasure from seeing my students find the same enjoyment too. I think a variety of different learning activities is essential in any lesson. I will balance a junior class teaching verb endings with running relays in class to practise those endings, much to the frustration of the Principal whose office is directly underneath my classroom! Latin aerobics are also the latest trend among my students and now rival yoga and Pilates in popularity. The unit on Roman religion finishes with a class sacrifice where an unruly student is replaced as a sacrificial victim by a stuffed animal at the last moment. Yes, unconventional is probably the best word to describe my style!
How long have you been at St Cuthbert’s College?
I have taught at St Cuthbert’s since the start of 2013 and can’t believe that five years have passed already!
What attracted you to the school?
I was attracted by its pursuit of excellence, its reputation as a leading independent school and its supportive, collegial environment for staff. The teachers are highly motivated and excellent educators, so it was a wonderful opportunity to join the team and improve my own teaching.
What do you enjoy most about being a teacher?
I love the opportunity to develop a meaningful relationship with students and the chance to support and enhance their learning. At the end of this year, I will have taught two students for five years in a row, from Years 9 to 13. It has been a real privilege to watch them grow and mature as students and as people. I know their strengths, their weaknesses, their interests, their dreams for the future. It is the chance to contribute positively to the lives of students which I enjoy the most. They are hugely important people in my life.
What are your thoughts on the benefits of independent schooling?
I believe that independent schooling is a real privilege for students because of the extraordinary opportunities offered to them both inside and outside the classroom. It allows them amazing experiences which broaden their lives, enabling them to grow and develop as young people and to test and challenge themselves. Independent schools have the structures, support and resources to empower and extend their students in new directions.
In your role as a teacher, what do you look for in a student?
I look primarily for a positive attitude towards learning. I do not seek out academic ability or high marks because I believe that the true measure of a person and their real potential lies in their attitude. I want students who are not just willing but really wanting to learn, who strive to improve, who try hard and who invest their full effort. In future years, I do not remember my students by their marks but by their quality of character.