The more things change…

Posted: 17th June 2016

Dr Gill remembers

Dr Gill has been a stalwart and inspiring member of the English Department since she joined St Augustine’s Priory in September 2001, nearly 15 years ago.  From English Literature to public speaking to debating (both nationally and internationally) she has contributed to the life of the school in so many ways.  As she prepares to retire in July, Dr Gill shares some of her memories of her time here.

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‘A year or so ago, my husband retired, and he undertook to research my genealogy, as he’d already done his own.  To his astonishment and mine, we discovered I shared ancestors with the legendary Throckmorton aunt and niece who were instrumental in the life of St Augustine’s Priory in the eighteenth century in Paris, providing the Catholic education then unavailable in England for English girls.

Is it in the genes?  I’ve felt from my very first day at St Augustine’s a deep personal connection to the school.    And some things haven’t changed in my 15 years.

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Two events, one trivial and one global in scope, introduced me to the school during my first week at St Augustine’s (September 2001).

First, the trivial.  A colleague told me to ‘send a girl to pick up the exercise books from the stationery cupboard, which would be monitored by a Sixth Form Prefect.’  ‘What?’, I inwardly questioned.  ‘Don’t you realise that you never trust a child out of your sight?’  I had so much to learn about the trust given to, and responsible leadership taken by, St Augustine’s girls.

Second, the global.  On 11th September, a colleague’s husband phoned to tell her that something was happening in New York City.  We rolled a portable television into the staff room, and watched 9/11 unfold before our eyes.  The afternoon was spent shepherding girls, reassuring them, and releasing them to parents as soon as they could be collected.  The shared intense care and concern for the girls’ well-being, even at the expense of our own, made me proud to have joined such a corps of teachers.

These are things that have never changed through the years, though we no longer send pupils to the stationery cupboard for exercise books.  Trusting the girls, greeting and being greeted, shared laughter and camaraderie, opening doors literally and metaphorically for one another, are still held in balance by academic rigour where students are challenged—and challenge us—to think about the world in new ways.  It’s a very special relationship that means, every year, teachers repeatedly say, ‘I love teaching our girls.’

But some things do change.  As in all schools, we as teachers are now required not just to do our job but to provide the documentation that proves that we do our job.  Frustrating.  To balance that, some changes are wonderful improvements.  When choosing which is my favourite, I’m torn between the beauty of the Prayer Garden and the dazzling cleanliness of the bright new paint.

Sadly, my ability to keep up with the energy of teenagers has also changed.  Whenever a girl asks me why I have to retire this year, I say, ‘Because I’m old! ‘—and I have the exhaustion level to prove it.

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I imagine even the hearty Throckmorton women were ready to hand on the baton to the next generation of energetic young women (and now, for us, men!) who shared their calling.  And so, with huge gratitude, I am drawing to a close of this very happy chapter in my life.  Gratitude for all my colleagues, past and present, joins fond personal memories of each and every student who has brightened my world for the last 15 years.’

 

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