How long have you been a teacher and when did you start at BGS?
I've been a teacher for 25 years now and I started at BGS as a foundation staff member when the Middle School first opened in 2003. In those 15 years, I have taught Year 6 (when it was our entry-level year), Year 7 and now Year 5.
Why were you inspired to become a teacher?
I always enjoyed being at school as a student and I was fortunate to have some really inspirational teachers, particularly at high school, when I was deciding on a career. I've always enjoyed the learning process myself, so felt that teaching was a natural fit. I enjoyed a wide range of subjects at school, so primary teaching was my final choice.
What do you enjoy most about teaching BGS boys?
I really like the diversity of personalities at BGS. We get a huge range of boys from all over Brisbane and beyond, who come to us with such varied life experiences and understandings from their previous schools – this really makes a lovely mix of ideas in any classroom. They are also generally very cooperative and really look out for each other, especially when they are new to the place, as they are in Year 5.
How do you make your classroom fun for students?
Dad jokes – pure and simple. Boys respond really well to humour, so I try to inject as much of that into my lessons and interactions as I can… admittedly with mixed success sometimes. It's a way to keep your classroom relaxed, but still challenging. It's nice to throw a bad pun out and see who gets it. Teaching Year 5 means that I get to re-hash some of my worst material for a brand new audience every year!
Justin Shears with the Year 5 Service Committee
What's your favourite lesson/topic to teach and why?
History is my passion, so I am very fortunate that I get to teach about the convict history of Brisbane with Year 5. What makes this so exciting is that we get to visit various historical sites around Brisbane, such as the Commissariat Store, the Old Windmill, Newstead House and St. Helena Island – many of which the boys have never experienced before. Being able to stand in the same places as Patrick Logan or a nameless inmate really helps to bring the stories of Brisbane's past to life.
How has teaching changed since you started?
Teaching is a very different profession to when I started in 1992. There is such a range of technologies to use now, which not only help my students enormously, but also make my life easier most of the time. Also, students have much more scope to be creative in how they present their ideas these days.
Do you think the way students learn will change over the next decade?
Most definitely – there is already such a movement towards ideas like design thinking, problem solving for real-life issues and collaborative group work. It's also exciting to explore how we can harness the never-ending changes in technology and the ways in which students can access, process and present information and ideas.
What achievement are you most proud of as a teacher?
That's a really hard question and I don't have one particular achievement in mind. What gives me an enormous sense of satisfaction is when I have had students come back to see me before they leave Year 12, and they tell me something about what they remember from the time they were in my class. It might be a simple fact, a project or a particular activity. If they walk away with something memorable – and I was part of that – then I've had a win.
If you had to name one thing that sets BGS Middle School apart from other schools what would it be?
I've taught in several sectors, both here and in the UK and there are many things which set us apart from other places. I think the most important one for me is the sense of inclusiveness and diversity here in the Middle School. The boys here embrace what's on offer and try so many different things and we all value something about everyone. A place where it is considered normal for the captain of the football team to also have a role in the Middle School musical, and also turn up for cooking club (when he's not doing singing rehearsals) is a place that keeps all of us interested.