When students at Emmaus College Rockhampton (ECR) are feeling anxious or worried, or are going through a tough time, it is teacher of religion and pastoral middle leader Patrick Egan who reassures them.
His pragmatic approach and his work on the college’s Responsible Thinking Process are just some of the reasons Mr Egan is a finalist in the Queensland College of Teachers Excellent Leadership in Teaching and Learning TEACHX Award.
“I’m probably quite grounded when dealing with things; I just deal with them as they need to be dealt with,” Mr Egan says.
“When people are struggling or if they are having those personal times of crisis, I’m quite calm and I listen. When they can see that you’re calm and you’re showing them dignity and respect, I think they know that there’s hope,” he said.
The former HPE teacher now deals with the overall pastoral care of the 1,250 students at the college as its Head of Responsible Thinking Process (RTP). What Mr Egan likes about the RTP, which is based on Perceptual Control Theory research and behavioural psychology, is that instead of being about punitive measures it is about development of the individual.
“You just see students grow up. You watch them develop and become ready to move into the world. When they leave here, hopefully they will be inclined to think a bit more responsibly about what they do. If that means that they make good decisions as citizens because they’re thinking about others and their actions, that’s pretty special,” he said.
Mr Egan is also in charge of training school staff regarding the RTP and said it is all about respect.
“We have a really calm school and a really respectful school. I think that if students are feeling safe and being treated with respect and dignity, learning isn’t usually too far away,” he said.
He said one of the best pieces of advice he ever received was, “To treat your students like a mirror”.
“Which sounds a bit weird, but basically if you’re loving and caring and supportive, in the mirror you get that back. If you’re angry and you’re volatile and yelling and screaming you’re probably going to get that back too. So, I just zone in on the kind of images I want to see coming back to me and just model that.”
Mr Egan said school staff, “also understand that we’re dealing with students who make mistakes and don’t always do the things that they need to at school and that’s just part of development”.
For him the key to the program is trying to give the student control over their lives and not telling them what to do. To give them choices and the understanding that they must own those choices.
Mr Egan, whose mother was a HPE teacher and whose wife is also a Prep teacher in the state school system, is full of gratitude for the vocation he took up.
“We’re pretty lucky in being able to watch our students grow into the people they’re going to be,” he said.
As a finalist, Mr Egan received $500 for professional development.