Martyn Smith, writing about Wesley College


(June, 2002, transcript of farewell speech to guests at Glen Waverley Campus function marking retirement from teaching at Wesley)

Thanks Jenny (Wajsenberg).  Thank you to Doug (Oldfield) and to Greg (Wilkinson) for all of those words.  I appreciated every single one of them and wasn't it good to hear Greg deflate a bit of ego there?  Thank you Doug and thank you Greg for those terrific comments.

And thanks to all of you for coming - it's just marvellous.

You blokes are lucky, I haven't been going round hugging you, but there's so many of the ladies who I've hugged.

It's just great to have everybody here and there are some people who have come who I'm so glad that they've been able to find the time to come.  Thank you very, very much for that.  I know people have come from a long way and I appreciate that and thank you to Jenny and to Kim (Renner) and the CRA for providing the function here this afternoon.  It's wonderful and we've all appreciated it.  Thank you, Jenny, and thank you to the CRA.

I spoke at another function recently where I talked about the things that I have loved about Wesley in the thirty years that I've been here.

I talked about Wesley's places and its philosophy, the times that I've been here - the era - and the community.  I'll skip through quickly the places and, unfortunately,  the philosophy - but some will be glad to hear that I'm going to skip through that.

But the places .....

Those of you who have lived at Glen Waverley and worked at Glen Waverley and been here early in the mornings and late at night - but certainly the early mornings - will know what a great place the Glen Waverley Campus is to be early in the morning and it doesn't matter what the time of year, or the weather, it's just great to be here in the freshness ... early in the morning at Glen Waverley, to feel the moisture and to hear the birds.

And, I guess, my favourite place at Wesley - the Prahran Front Turf, on an Autumn late afternoon, mellow and green, with trams clinking along St Kilda Road.

And Chum Creek's gullies and ridges, in winter, particularly.  That wonderful - which I guess is not there now - combustion stove and the log fire; gorgeously lush hot showers.

And, recently, summer at Loch End.  Those wonderful white, creamy, unending dunes down there that Hayne (Meredith) has got organised for us.  It's just sensational.  And the black, lightless caves that I was a bit scared about going into a couple of years ago but, boy, when I got down there in that cave it was just something!

And even more recently, I've grown to love Clunes.  The sunrise at Clunes, the midnight stillness, the emptiness of the town at one and two o'clock in the morning and, this, this is the best ... the ageless, amazing, wonderful, fascinating Wesleyan Methodist Church up there that the kids live around.

These are things I've loved.

Wesley's philosophy.  I've just loved the fact that right from the very beginning Wesley actually had a philosophy and that the school has been energetic and intelligent in searching that philosophy, over and over.

Now currently our school articulates that philosophy with these things that it values and I do want to read them and they do come from our Wesley College Strategic Plan, 2001-2004.

Let me read them.  This is what Wesley College values:-

"The individual uniqueness, worth and talents of all its members".  And under that heading, it values "Each person achieving excellence according to their abilities" and it values "A curriculum broad and diverse enough to enable individual flourishing", and, "The right of each voice in the College to be heard".

Under a second heading - Wesley College values "A community that is dynamic, diverse, tolerant and compassionate" - it values "Diversity within the school", "Plurality of cultures within Australia."  It values "An educational program that is truly international in its outlook".  It values "Successes of individuals and groups within the College", and it values "Social justice and compassion".

Under a third heading - Wesley College values "The living heritage that the College has been bequeathed" - it values "A respect for Christian tradition and the wisdom offered by other faiths".  It values "Careful and responsible management of natural and human environment".  It values "Creative sensitive response to change, respecting traditions to which people belong" and it values the  "Heritage created by the College and past members".

That's not a bad statement, and it's official.  It's in the Strategic Plan.

Just a thought - and, correctly, we've been doing this.  We've certainly been focussing on the pragmatics - the Campus Strategic Priorities, Action Plans, Work-based Projects!  We're putting these things into practice - good, good - but I wonder if it would be wise to proclaim these codified values to our own community, starting with us, perhaps more prominently.

They were there on that sheet of paper that David (Loader) handed out in Term One, Day One.  Perhaps we should be proclaiming them on our new intranet, in our manuals, on posters that perhaps may be framed and go into foyers - or wherever we think it's important.

That's not a bad statement of our philosophy!

The third and fourth things that I've loved about Wesley, the era and the community - the people - I'll put together.

I have just been so lucky to have been at Wesley College in the last thirty years!  I cannot believe the luck - particularly after what Wilko said about how I got here, which was basically by chance!

To give you some idea of the distance that the school's travelled from 1972 to 2002:-

When I started at Wesley, David Loader's office, now, was the Common Room, the Staff Room, for all teachers.  That's how we've grown.

At Glen Waverley, here, there was no Senior College building or grounds up there.  There was no Prep School - there wasn't even the hole in the ground that it sits in.  There was no Visual Arts School, no Atrium, the Wells Library certainly didn't stand where it stands now in the middle of that quadrangle - that was just an open space.  Get this one ... all Performing Arts occurred in the current Drama Studio and the small rooms just around it.  The Middle School was far less than half the size it is now.

Come a long way.

There was no Elsternwick, there was no Mallana, there was no Loch End, there was no Clunes.

At Glen Waverley, and I counted them, my count, 432 in 1972, 432 Years 4-8 boys ran around.  No female teachers.  At Prahran, about (I didn't bother to count) 750, I think, Years 7-12 boys. One female teacher.

I looked up the '72 Chronicle and there's quite a telling page, seven ... and I remember this sort of fairly well.  It's titled 'The Changing Face of Wesley' - quite a foreboding title.  I see Alan Willey standing in a crater out the front of the main school down there, while it's all being dug up, and all the physical changes were starting.  And, I think they probably keep on going and certainly administrative and other changes have continued.

And I certainly remember my first English lesson which was Year 11 precis writing which I'd prepared so well, which required quite a bit of interaction - might even call it 'constructivism' - occurring in the classroom and I had planned it so well - we were all going to join in this 'thing' and build it up, and so on.  Just as I started - there'll be a few here who can identify with this - a jackhammer started on that side of Room 18 on the bottom corridor at Prahran and on the other side another one started so that was the end of precis writing and it was just, well, it wasn't really silent, it was going to be silent reading!

Compare all of that to 2002 and you be the judge.

I have been saying in the Common Room lately that I do really think that the twenty-first century Wesley is a little bit of a baby.  I do think that we do have a baby on our hands here.

I'd sort of been thinking that we're tried, true and tested.  We're what ... one hundred and thirty five years old?  I'm not sure, going that way.

But I wonder.

You see, it's really only in the last six years since the Prep School at Prahran was instituted (and a couple of things since then) that we've actually had 'the changing face of Wesley' finally changed.  Two complete campuses, K-12.

That, as you know, has done and is creating some conundrums for us.  It's young.  I'll come back to that later.

The other really good thing that I've had at Wesley apart from the times, and all that growth and all the people that have been part of that is the terrific spread of jobs that I've had.  I've just been so lucky to do all the things that those guys told you about.

And I really cherish every one of those opportunities but, in particular, I do really cherish the boarding - that was fabulous - and, Doug was so right in what he said about Helen being an important, equally important, part of that.  You ask any of those senior boarders of the time how important Helen was.  Loved the boarding!

I've loved being here at Glen Waverley for every minute of its development since 1977 when Tony (Conabere) and I ... he grabbed me out of my Chaplain's office next to his office - where Simone (Burchell) sits now, and says "Come on, we're going to see the first bit of dirt dug!" and I said "aw, righto!", so out I've gone and we went onto the other side of, oh I don't where it'd be now, it'd be - oh, I don't know, just beyond the Music School, and we watched the grader dig into the earth for the first time.

And I am so lucky that I have been here for every moment since.  I've loved watching this place grow.

And Doug, you're right, I loved that time on the Council.  I cherish that.  Just the whole 'jazz' but particularly the Operations Committee.  And I'll never forget you, Geoff (Wagstaff), and John Hall and all those guys when I used to take that Budget in and the 'stick' you used to give me about Grade Five kids, for instance - the teachers, the Art teachers budgeting that they should have canvas to paint on and saying "Now listen, Martyn, we can't really afford that."  But that was great and I learnt so much ..... and from Norman (Young) and from Keith (Ditterich) and everybody else, and Lindsay (Newnham)!  So much, at that time, and I cherish that.

And those of you who - there are many here today - that were decisive in what I've enjoyed and had given to me at this place and what I've been able to do and, those people, I am so grateful for what you have done for me.  As teachers, councillors, Principals, Chaplains, whatever, I acknowledge everything that you did to bring me this great good fortune that I have had.

And I thank my family.  I'm sorry for times when I put Wesley before the family and there were times and that didn't help.  I'm glad that there were times when we put Wesley and the family together and I'm really glad when there were times when Wesley gave the family everything.

Helen's put up with all my dodges and left turns and reverse turns and resigning on the spot and being yelled at by Ken Baldwin at Ferntree Gully Tech and said 'Alright, Martyn, if that's what you think you've got to do, that's what you've got to do" and she's moved with me into the Boarding House then out to here to be Lay Chaplain - when I was laid on the floor when Presty (David Prest) asked me to do that - and various other things, and I acknowledge my family and everything they've done for me in the time that I've been here.

Field Rickards has rung to say that he couldn't be here and he may try to get here in a moment but I had wanted to say to Field, but I will say to Doug, and to Keith and to Norman as representatives of the College Council, to express the gratitude for the College's generosity to our family whilst I have been at Wesley.

Helen and I have appreciated fully the generosity of the College.  We're grateful that Mark and Kirrily were able to be educated here and that we were cared for when we were in the Boarding House and in the Chaplaincy and that we were able to spend many happy holiday times at Chum Creek.  There were many, many times that we were able to avail ourselves of the school's generosity.  Thank you to the College.

Now I'm big on babies ..... methinks he timed that to perfection! (Grandson Liam - eleven months - had just hauled himself up on the lectern.) ..... as you heard me say before.  And I think our twenty-first century Wesley College, for which we are currently the stewards, is preciously young - a tiny reflection (indicating Liam).  We do have these two full K-12 campuses and we've only had it like that for six years, fully.  We shouldn't get too surprised if we are a little uncertain at this stage on how to handle that young child.

What we've got to be sure about is that we don't drop the child or we don't throw it out with the bathwater.  We've got to be sure that we love it.

We need to be sure that we hold firm to the values.  I'll only read the first two headings:-  "Wesley College values the individual uniqueness, worth and talents of all its members".  It values "A community that is dynamic, diverse, tolerant and compassionate".

And I'll read the rest:-  It values "The living heritage that the College has been bequeathed", "A respect for Christian tradition and the wisdom offered by other faiths".  It values "Careful and responsible management of natural and human environment".  It values "Creative sensitive response to change, respecting traditions to which people belong".  It values the  "Heritage created by the College and past members".

We are stewards of this new, young, twenty-first century Wesley College.

There may be some clues from our heritage on how to grow that 'child'.  I suspect that the mystery of reconciling a respect for diversity and difference with a unity of purpose is a two and a half century conundrum for people who have carried the name 'Wesley'.  People like Fred (Webber) and Keith and Norman, I think could tell us what our heritage says about drawing together diverse, widely-spread people.

And, finally, it's some continuity that we want, in my view.  We need to keep on listening to all the voices - all of the voices, keep on listening.

I did look at the staff list in the first Chronicle that I received as a teacher.  There are some other names but here are some names that I am so glad that I was on the staff with these people because they took me back to 1918 and before at Wesley.

Louis Lesser - he'd been a student under Adamson and left in 1918.  Alan Dodd, 1926.  Alan Mitchell, 1927.  Jack Rush, left Wesley 1924.  Bill Schuster, left in 1927.

These people - Narse (Lesser) in particular, and Alan (Mitchell) - told me so much about Wesley over that time and took me to the places around the Campus and pointed out what was important.

Tony (Conabere) led me on a journey of the founding of the school in our Year Nine History course that we created and that's never left me.

So I got this wonderful grounding.

I was the only person on that staff list in that Chronicle - when I look through the list, I'm the only one who's still teaching here.  So I thought that was a good year to start in.  I'm not going to go through all of them, I'll just go in five-year lots.

Hear some of these voices.  These people can weave the story, too, here at Glen Waverley.  These are people whose names I found in these Chronicles, who teach children, who are still doing that today.

I looked in the 1977 Chronicle and came across these three names:-  Ros Hardy, Dan Monsen and Chris Poulton.

In 1982, five years later, they were ... well Ros, I think, might have left to have a family, but in 1982  ..... she's back, mind you ..... in 1982, I found these names, added to the ones I've just named:-  Ian Cornthwaite, Robyn McKenna, Rick Parry, Lucille Phillips and Greg Wilms.

And five years later, in 1987, the year I stop:-  Carolyn Barker, Ben Bennett, Liz Cameron, Angela Capponi, Nerida Clark, Ros Crommelin, David Dunn, Stephen Glover, Jenny Legge, Jenny Reid, Kim Renner, Julie Seal, Ros Sinclair and Sue Sturman.

And if I go to the 1992 Chronicle, I've got a list like that!  (Arms spread to indicate a long list.)  It may not be true that there's a lot of coming and going at Wesley.

These are voices to hear in the search for continuity.

Finally, from our sisters in Kew, in our Wesley Song Book with the melody by L.A. Adamson. (from audience:-   Sing it!)  I'd love to!  I'd love to!  But I won't.  Helen said "Don't sing it!"

"We've laughed and talked, and worked and played, as day by day went past. Good-bye, good luck, good-bye, good luck, good-bye, good luck to you."

Thank you.

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