Introducing Our New Head of English
We welcome Louise Robinson-Lay to our English Department as Head of English this year. Previously, Louise held the position of Head of Staff Learning and Director of Academic Growth at St Margaret’s Berwick Grammar in Melbourne. With over two decades of knowledge ad experience under her belt, Louise’s appointment is a valuable asset to the College.
What inspired you to pursue a career in education and become an English Teacher?
When I was in secondary school, the vice principal met with my mum and told her I was destined to be a teacher. I don’t know if that’s because I was bossy or just loved reading and writing! Teaching has always been a part of who I am, and I love that I got to have so many great experiences along the way. Teaching English means that I get to connect with students in so many different ways and to broaden their understanding of the world and of themselves. What could be better than that?
What are your top priorities as the new Head of English?
My top priorities are to ensure that the amazing team I get to work with stay as strong as they are and continue to perform at such a high level. I am very fortunate to work with such a dedicated and professional group of people. We are focussing together on embedding technology and the latest thinking into our teaching and learning practices to ensure that what we do remains relevant and is supported by the best research we can get. We are working together to ensure that young people communicate well and appreciate literature, and see the relevance of English to their lives.
What are some innovative teaching strategies you plan to implement in your department?
We are using AI in our planning and curriculum evaluation and are looking for ways to teach students to use it too. We are also scrutinising our teaching of writing and will soon be working on a project to look at better ways to teach writers how to develop their own voice. These days anyone has access to basic writing tools. We want our students to do better than that.
How do you stay up to date with the latest trends and developments in English education?
I have a strong network of English teachers across Australia, and we regularly discuss new initiatives and best practices online. I read education journals widely, both Australian and International journals, and I follow a number of educational thinkers on social media. I buy way too many books too!
What are some of your favourite books or genre of books? How have they influenced you?
This question is a little like picking a favourite child! I find it almost impossible to find a small number, but if I am forced to, I often have George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four in the list because of its political messages about standing up for what is right and sticking to the truth. I love Richard Power’s The Overstory for its environmental message alongside amazing storytelling ability and I love The Book Thief by Marcus Zusak for its imagination, historical sweep and wonderful narration. However, I could add at least a dozen more!
Do you have a favourite author? Who is it, and why?
I love the work of China Mieville for its inventiveness, Dickens for its humour and William Gibson for its prescience. As a Literature teacher, I can’t go past Shakespeare. Harold Bloom was right when he said that Shakespeare invented the human.
What are some hobbies or interests you have outside of work, and how do they enrich you?
I am a passionate photographer and love nothing better than spending time in nature and creating images that I like. I love the artistic side of it but also the technical side of learning how to process images and to use the camera as well as possible.
How do you stay motivated and inspired throughout the school year?
Seeing the success of others always motivates me. When someone, whether a teacher or a student, learns something new and really has that pride in their achievement, I am inspired to keep going. The creative aspect of working with people inspires me.
How do you prioritise self-care and wellness in your day?
I get to work nice and early and have a little bit of quiet time each day to settle in and organise myself. I feel better when I’m calm, so I like this little routine to help me to stay organised. I find that if I take this time, I can then be flexible, and things won’t bother me when they don’t go according to plan. I also like to end each day with a walk. It doesn’t have to be tens of kilometres, but just being outside walking helps me to relax.
What advice do you have for new teachers and aspiring education leaders?
Step in and have a go. If you want to lead, don’t wait for permission. There will always be people who champion you if you let them know what you want to achieve. I always advocate for mentoring, whether formal or informal. Find someone who you know will give you honest and supportive advice.
Thank you, Louise. We all know who to go to for book recommendations now.