Learning in Retrospect

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Over the weekend, I attended my cousin’s wedding. It was a lovely intimate ceremony at a registry office, followed by the most delicious meal I’ve had in a long time, at this little thatched cottage of a restaurant.

My cousin, who is much older, has a daughter who is a little younger than me. Seeing her for the first time in many years, I was struck at how grown up and mature she seems; this probably being down to her now having a baby of her own. (This probably isn’t necessary information, but I’m setting the scene, so bear with me).

This was the first time I got to meet my second cousin’s (I think that’s the right term) boyfriend/baby daddy; and the small world that it is, it turns out we both went to the same secondary school, but at different times as he is five years older than me.

Roger Perks

We got to talking about the headmaster, Mr Roger Perks. He was a legend of a head teacher; he wore the school uniform, he knew everybody’s name, and he had a laugh with us but could still remain in authority, not many teachers who want to be your friend can do that. There’s more about him in this article from 2001. He was just brilliant; he wanted the best for everybody, teaching us to believe in ourselves and to achieve our metaphorical golden keys; with hard work we can achieve a golden key which will be able to open any doors for a successful future. He believed in us and everything he did, it wasn’t just a job to him.

Unfortunately, in 2002, when I was in year 8, Mr Perks decided to pass the reins on to somebody else, retiring in order to spend more time with his family. Sadly he would then pass away Christmas 2004.

Leaving some pretty huge shoes to fill, Mr David Green took his place as Headmaster. I

David Green

think most of the students took an instant dislike to him; he was just so different to Mr Perks, wearing some boring old suit, trying too hard to be friendly with us, and basically just nothing compared to his predecessor.

It is fair to say that After Mr Perks left, the school went downhill; it had lost its magic somewhat. The students didn’t seem to care anymore, pretty much ignoring the code of conduct Mr Green had put in place and outright defying him; he didn’t have respect from the students from the word go. Which is a shame really because he was actually a good guy.

His assemblies didn’t raise the same kind of passion that Mr Perks’ did amongst the students; probably because most of them didn’t bother to listen. I was one that did listen but in my teenage stupidity, I didn’t bother taking in the message he was trying to convey. I was too busy trying to be cool and being indifferent to Mr Green like everybody else was.

The second cousin’s boyfriend was one of these people that thought our school was ruined because Mr Perks had left. And at this wedding, I actually found myself defending Mr Green. Something which probably wouldn’t happen amongst many of the school’s students who had known Mr Perks.

Mr Perks was certainly a tough act to follow and anybody taking his role would have been disliked, it wasn’t just Mr Green. And he did try to inspire passion amongst us students, it’s just that nobody wanted to listen. As he was an avid mountain climber, he used the process of climbing mountains as a metaphor for success; similar to Mr Perks’ golden key but nobody seemed to care. The mountain metaphor was used in a ‘just keep going’ kind of way, and in a ‘need the right equipment to succeed’ kind of way as well.

One particular assembly that Mr Green held, he stood behind a table on stage in the great hall, with a small gas stove, a wok, chopped food, a kettle and a pot noodle. He talked about the pot noodle and how it was chicken and mushroom flavour, emphasis on the flavour aspect, as they probably weren’t actually in the ingredients listed, and he mentioned how simple it is to make yourself a pot noodle by just boiling a kettle. He then went on to chop a few vegetables and threw them into the wok for cooking (the hall smelt amazing) saying that with a little extra effort you could have a more nutritious meal. The metaphor for learning here being that taking shortcuts isn’t always beneficial to you, but instead, putting in that little bit of extra effort could give you something more substantial, something you have properly achieved.

It is a shame that it is only now that I seem to be taking in Mr Green’s lessons; they are very important lessons to have. Whilst many of the students who had the good fortune to have Mr Perks as a headmaster have favoured him and taken a dislike to Mr Green, I feel lucky that I have learned to appreciate both Mr Perks and Mr Green for their similarities and their differences; it shows that in many various forms, someone wants the best for you and wants to see you succeed. The students of my secondary school shouldn’t have shunned Mr Green because he wasn’t Mr Perks. Mr Perks was one of a kind, nobody could have replaced him, but at least the one that did gave it a go and tried to inspire that generation of youth.


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3 Responses to Learning in Retrospect

  1. Jennifer R. says:

    It’s very sad when a beloved school leader leaves – it almost sounds as if Mr. Perks was sick when he left since he died just few years later.

    No matter the situation it is difficult for a new person to step in. Either the former person was so well loved (like your Mr. Perks) and no current student or parent (and sometimes teachers) believe that the new person can ever fill those big shoes. OR the person leaving wasn’t doing their job well and the community has unrealistic expectations because they want everything to change/be better as soon as the new person walks in the door.

    I guess if a mediocre person is replaced by a mediocre person, well that might not be difficult. But it’s sad. Who wants mediocrity.

    You should write to Mr. Green and let him know that you appreciate his lessons now as an adult – even if you couldn’t as a kid. I’m sure he would love to hear that. Educators strive to make a difference in students’ lives. We know sometimes that difference is immediate and sometimes the appreciation and lessons don’t sink in for many many years.

  2. Vix Perks says:

    Thank you for your kind comments about my Dad. He was an amazing father as well as an amazing Head. x

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