Interview with Margie McDonough
Margaret ‘Margie’ McDonough has been teaching full-time at Scotch for the last eight years, but also for several years prior to that in a variety of roles. It goes without saying that Margie is passionate about boys and their education. She also bleeds cardinal, gold and blue, having educated her own boys Lachlan (‘05), Callum (‘10) and Gus (‘12) in both the Junior and Senior Schools.
Margie is a wonderful colleague to go and seek advice from, when it comes to catering for the individual needs of the boys in your class. She has the wisdom and knowledge to recommend the right course of action to help you set up any boy for success.
Two years ago Margie became Head of Campbell House. She has taken this role to another level in exemplary organisation and involving the boys in the decision-making process.
A lighter side of Margie was reflected in the life size cut-out of St Kilda Football Club captain Nick Riewoldt which hung outside her office door. A memorable moment for Margie came when Nick popped in to Education Support one afternoon. She proudly displays the photo to this day!
'To me, Margie is part of the heart and soul of the Junior School. She is always approachable, very happy to help you, and reminds you of the importance of family life.'
I admire her for being a wonderful mother; and when you hear that she has five children you are immediately in awe of her. Boys who pass through her teaching area in Education Support leave much richer for the experience, and believing in their own abilities. They probably share with their parents Margie’s quirky sense of humour, her rhymes relating to the rules of phonics, and her photo wall adorned with images of the McDonough clan.
Many years from now, when you are no longer teaching, what is one of the Scotch memories you will reflect on to warm your heart?
My memories will be about people; boys, teachers and parents. The smiling faces of boys, the relationships formed and conversations had will never leave me. I love walking in the gate each morning, stopping along the way to look at pets, books, sores and even teeth lost overnight! My memories will be of happy boys, excited and looking forward to the busy days ahead. This excitement is infectious, and I always feel at home.
What is the best advice you have ever received?
I have been teaching for more than 35 years so I have had many pieces of advice along the way, but the most valuable has been ‘start with what the student can do, in order to develop what he can’t do.’ Another valuable tip is always to be honest; boys know when you’re not. If you really don’t believe a boy can get there, don’t say he can! I worked in a ‘social adjustment centre’ for three years, and I think that changed the way I have taught. Developing honest relationships with boys is the best way to motivate and develop them. I wish I had been given this advice when I first started teaching.
What story will your colleagues tell about you at your farewell speech when you retire?
Teachers and people who have worked with me for many years will tell you there are hundreds of stories about me they would love to share. I think I’m just one of those people, but I can laugh at myself.
Well, I’m going to tell one now so that when I’m old and grumpy, I won’t have to endure the embarrassment. I received an email that stated.‘donotreply’ at the bottom. I asked everyone in my office who ‘Donna Treply’ was. (I do spend a large part of my day teaching phonics and writing.) Of course, nobody recognised the name. You must also realise that computer technology is not something that I grew up with. You can’t imagine how much we laughed when we realised how I had misinterpreted the email. Next time, please write ‘do not reply’!
What has been your biggest challenge over your years at Scotch?
I think my biggest challenge has been the technological revolution, which happened sometime in the ‘80s while I was juggling motherhood and part-time work. I remember teaching myself computer skills when I started teaching at Scotch. I was fortunate to work with many computer experts who tirelessly answered my ridiculous questions, and spent time teaching me the basics. I continue to learn each day, and I am surprised at what I can do now.
Of course this ‘technological disability’ that I have is not isolated to computers: it encompasses anything that has an on/off switch! Keeping abreast with new programmes and research is both challenging and exciting.
Neuroscience research, for example, has shown that with the right input, the brain can change and reconfigure itself throughout life, proving that student potential is endless. This has placed new demands and subsequent obligations on all teachers, as we can no longer put a lid on the container and say ‘well, he’s reached his potential.’ There will always be room for more; the lid must never be put on!
What advice would you give our VCE students as they embark on a life outside Scotch?
My advice would be to ‘choose a career that you love so that you never have to go to work’. I encouraged my four adult children, three of whom are Old Scotch boys, to make a difference in some way; to question what you see and read, and travel anywhere and everywhere. I think it is important to ‘give back’ at every opportunity, as all Scotch boys are well equipped to do anything and everything. Demonstrate gratitude to your parents for their commitment to your education and always look out for your fellow Scotchies.
After all these years of service to Scotch, what is your favourite corner of the school, and why?
I love the Chapel. I have such wonderful memories of.the lone piper at the Tattoo. The Memorial Hall is also one of my favourite places. I love the Prep to Year 2 Christmas concerts, and it’s always very emotional when ‘the road rises up to meet‘ the graduating boys each year. Of course I am proud of, and enjoy, how welcoming our Education Support rooms are, and how the boys love coming into them.