Before joining the School in 1996, Simon was Head of English at Seton Catholic College for four years. This followed a 14-year stint at Hale School, where he spent time as an English teacher and senior boarding master, among other roles.
At Christ Church, Simon assists with the co-ordination of the English Department’s staff of 11 and helps write the department’s upper school programmes in consensus with the other teachers. He has a particular focus on the upper school, while Head of English Margaret Brophy focuses on the lower school. “It’s extremely important that we stay on top of State and national agendas for English education, and our programmes must be rigorous and water tight,” Simon explained. He is also involved in creating timetables for department members on a year-by-year basis and advising students and parents on subject selection in the English area, as well as ensuring departmental records are kept accurately for things such as Curriculum Council certification.
Ordering books and matching books to boys is another important job for Simon, as is his role on the academic committee, through which, among other things, he is involved in advising the Headmaster in regard to syllabus agendas and directions. Through this committee he also administers prizes to top students. Simon and the other members of the English Department also act as mentors to the many young teachers who have come through the department over the years. The department also has a very high intake of prac students.
Long involved with the Curriculum Council, Simon had a heavy involvement in the new courses of study that were introduced in 2006. With English used as “a bit of a guinea pig”, Simon said it was a matter of ironing out problems. “It lacked rigour and there were quite a few problems with it, so I was involved with advocating for some of the changes.”
Simon teaches Year 11 and 12 English Literature, as well as Year 12 Stage Two English, which is like the old Senior English. Literature is a particular passion for Simon. “I really enjoy introducing kids to interesting ideas written in a memorable way,” he said. “I love exploring with them the way language is used in literature and the ideas that come out of it. That exposure comes at a real growing stage and I think it really helps with their development.”
But Simon said it wasn’t just the students who were learning. “They also give me some really interesting ideas,” he said. “They see things in different ways, putting a fresh new perspective on things. You’re always continuing to learn yourself so teaching helps you become a life-long learner.”
Simon said it was a privilege to be paid to be teaching with books that he would be reading and enjoying anyway. “And I just really enjoy the contact with the kids. I think it keeps me young and it pushes me to see things from other points of view.”
Over the years, Simon has developed a real affection for Australian literature – more so since teaching Literature than when he was younger. “I have a real soft spot for Tim Winton as a writer,” he said. “He has an amazing way of capturing a local environment and the way people move through that – creating a type of Australian cultural identity whereby people are united in part through landscape.” Simon said Winton’s book Cloudstreet remained one of his favourites.
Aside from teaching, Simon enjoys his role as a house tutor, in particular the opportunity to get to know families as brothers come through the tutorial system. Simon is also involved in sports coaching and currently takes 3rd XI cricket, which he said was great fun with everyone getting a bowl and a bat. And as Teacher in Charge of Surfing, he enjoys getting out for a surf with the boys and even surfing in some of the longboarding competitions with them (though of course his results don’t count).