Educators can get their inspiration to become a teacher from many different people and places. For Marcellin College principal Mark Murphy, inspiration came from his piano teacher, Carmel Sheehan, who taught him when he was growing up in Templestowe.
“She just had a passion for music. She taught her students not only how to play music, but to love it and become immersed in it,” Mark says.
“On the walls of the music room in which we learnt piano were portraits of all the great composers. Whenever I was learning a new piece, Carmel would tell the story of that composer, where the piece fits in, where he wrote it and what he was thinking when he wrote it – a great model of holistic learning.
“We didn’t just learn to mechanically play, we learned to understand how the composer was feeling when he wrote the music. She taught me how to be a teacher – the passion of loving what you do.”
Mark took his passion for piano and for sport into his further education and his first job at Nazareth College in Noble Park in 1986, where he taught music and physical education. Mark was a foundation teacher at the college.
“We started with 140 year 7 students, nine teachers, a principal, a secretary, six portable classrooms and a workers’ toilet. That was our school,” Mark says.
“It was a tremendous induction as a teacher because one had to develop self-reliance. There was no curriculum, no resources, no one who could teach you or tell you anything, so you had to rely on yourself.”
The school had few resources for teaching music, so Mark went to a garage sale and bought a piano for $150. His students made instruments in class as there was little budget for instruments.
“These early experiences helped shape the teacher I have become,” Mark says. “It probably fast-tracked my development as a teacher because I had to be so self-reliant. I went from there to St Peter’s College Cranbourne. At that time, St Peter’s was a 7-10 school and I was employed as the first VCE co-ordinator to implement the VCE from scratch.”
He then moved to St Joseph’s College Ferntree Gully, where he was initially the religious education co-ordinator and later deputy principal. In 2008 he joined Marcellin as principal.
“I was very blessed, humbled and fortunate to be chosen for this role.”
While working as a teacher, Mark has also been studying, completing a graduate diploma in education (student well-being), a master’s in educational leadership, degrees in theology and arts and, six months ago, he completed an MBA.
“I’ve studied part-time for 18 of the 30 years I’ve been teaching,” Mark says.
“I believe in lifelong learning and any community I’ve been in I’ve wanted to model that.”
Although Mark spent his first 13 years teaching in co-ed schools, he says he was drawn to teaching at boys’ schools, which he has done for 18 years.
“I love it. I often draw on the enthusiasm and energy of our boys to sustain and inspire me,” he says. “I see boys achieving incredible things here that I may not necessarily see in other environments.”
Mark says Marcellin is an inclusive place for boys. “At Marcellin, we believe in the concept of multiple masculinities; that is, there are many pathways and expressions of what it is to be a good man. Each boy is unique and we provide opportunities for our students to discern and explore their individual pathway toward the next stage in their life.
“We have the luxury here of being able to focus specifically on how boys learn best and, therefore, our dedicated staff are constantly reflecting on and presenting our students with a variety of learning pedagogies. We provide that breadth of opportunity and the boys embrace that, whether it be arts or sports or academically,” he says.
“Our boys are very accepting and supportive of individual difference in our school and they show wonderful support and encouragement to their classmates whether that be on the stage, in the classroom or on the sporting field.”
Mark says Marcellin, as a Catholic Marist school, has an emphasis on Catholic social teaching, lived out through social justice activities, including giving students the opportunity to volunteer in indigenous communities and overseas, among local outreach activities.
“Real, practical faith is about reaching out to those in most need. As Jesus said, ‘Love one another as I have loved you’. If we could do that, the world would be a better place,” he says.
Though Mark no longer teaches day-to-day in the classroom, he is still passionate about music (and sport).
“Today music is my therapy. It is a great mindfulness activity. I go home if I’ve had a full and challenging day and belt out a few tunes on the piano,” he says.
My philosophy is closely related to the college’s Marist identity. The Marist founder, St Marcellin Champagnat, said that to educate young people you have to love them and love them all equally. It’s as simple and as complex as that.
3 things I have learnt
1. Never judge a book by its cover, particularly when it comes to students. Being judgmental of the young people in our care is one of the greatest impediments in supporting them to reach their full potential.
2. I’ve particularly learnt this as a principal – take a breath before you make a decision. Reflection is very important.
3. The importance of being self-reflective. I need to constantly be thinking and reflecting on the impact of my behaviour on the people around me – in positive and negative ways.
About Marcellin College
- A Catholic Marist boys’ school catering for students from years 7-12.
- Marcellin’s campus is in the leafy surrounds of Bulleen in Melbourne’s north-east.
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