Teacher Spotlight: Martin Mathieson

Written by Megan Chan

A portrait of Mr. Mathieson

A portrait of Mr. Mathieson

The Head of Design and boys’ football coach here at RCHK, Mr. Martin Mathieson has made an impact on many students’ lives. With his time at RCHK drawing to a close, we decided to sit down and ask him some questions ...

What is your favourite design unit at RCHK?

‘Make It Or Sell It’, that’s my favourite. I think because it was the most authentic unit that was given to students because it allows them to be entrepreneurs and think about markets, creating products that will sell - ethical products that sell. And I think the general feel was excellent, we do it a lot with the other units but this unit in particular, it didn’t look like the students were learning anything. They were having fun. 

Well they didn’t know they were learning, put it that way. I know students talk about learning at school, and the school then equates learning with not having fun, that it’s a different thing from having fun, learning is something else. And I think that what I see was that learning could be fun. I see a lot, but that one in particular, it felt right.

What is your favourite memory here at RCHK?

The Black Kite football team; it was a semifinal that they had done. It was in the rain, I remember it really well. And the boys had scored a couple of goals, it was a real hard fought match. It was just one of those nights, it was great to see. I remember being really pumped up about it, really excited, and the boys as well, so that was great. They got a place at ACAMIS, which was amazing; best we could ever hope for was third place. It was neck and neck, it didn’t look like we were gonna win - I think it was the last two minutes, at the end of the game, they scored the goal. 

Away from the sports side of it - and school itself; when we, as a team, create units. And some of them have been really good, and if I go around and look at what’s going on and I go into the classrooms and see what’s going on, and that’s happened a few times, and I’ve just thought “Yep, that’s working. We’re doing well.” And that happens a lot, so it’s hard to pick one particular time. I think walking into ‘Make it or Sell it”, down the PAC during the school fair. I remember coming in at two o’clock. I had supervision between two and four, so I remember coming in and thinking, “I don’t know if this has worked or not. I don’t know what this is gonna be like, I don’t know if this is good or bad.” Whatever I didn’t know, on the day of the selling, I walked in and it was incredible. The whole feeling was incredible. That Year 11 group had taken over the PAC, the CAS stuff that was going with Year 12 and 13 - nothing. They had taken over the PAC and the place was jumping. All the stuff had sold, they were still actively out there selling stuff. You could see the happiness and excitement on faces, and you don’t see that in school a lot. I mean, you see it often, but that was something. I walked in, and I just thought, the culmination of three, four months work; for us it was a culmination of a year, planning with I&S, so there was a lot of work put into it. So to see it all come together, and the kids as well, all come together, that one time, was amazing. 

What is your favourite part about teaching?

Working with students. 

As a kid, did you aspire to become a teacher, or something else?

No. Electrician. It was the only aspiration I had. After six years of being an electrician, I wanted to do something else. I fell into teaching. 

What was your least favourite subject growing up?

English. And then it became Chemistry. The English one because it was really boring - I mean it really was, it was deadly dull. It was a boring subject and it was just tiresome. I didn’t think it remotely interesting, not once ever. Then it became Chemistry, which used to be the subject I loved the most, and it became the subject I hated the most. In a month. And that was because of the teacher. I went from having a teacher I respected, loved being in his class, he was good fun, he was relaxed, helpful, you could talk to him. Then I went to this crazy woman who didn’t know the subject, who was really unapproachable, difficult, and I couldn’t relate to this woman. So I dropped the subject, I couldn’t cope with it. I went from really loving the subject; I was in a lower class, I was in the third class from Chemistry. And I did really well, I really enjoyed it, and I got put in the top class in Chemistry and hated it. Hated it. Absolutely loathed it. And dropped the subject. So I went from being in the top ten in a school of three hundred students in that year group - I was in the top ten of Chemistry, to the lowest ten of Chemistry, because I loathed that woman and I hated the subject. 

The teacher makes all the difference. Not the units, not the curriculum, none of that matters. You can take something crap and turn it into something amazing. A teacher can do that, they have the skills, and the knowledge, to do that. That I firmly believe. The curriculum is not so important, it’s the teacher; they bring the magic. No one else brings the magic, no one. Your teacher who stands in front of you is the one who turns it all on. The other magicians. That’s where the talent is. Never forget that, because the rest of it is just nonsense, it really is. You have a relationship with your teachers, that will be the thing you remember the most at the end of school, not all that other stuff. They’ll be the people you remember - they’re the ones I remember, the teachers. 

Aside from Design, what other subjects did you enjoy?

I didn’t have design when I was going through school - I had technical drawing, which I really liked, a lot. But it had nothing to do with design. It was just skills, drawing skills, which I really, really liked a lot. I loved physics when I was in school, math and physics. I was a real geek. I loved math, I loved physics, and I really loved technical drawing. Those were my three favourite subjects I really enjoyed. The rest - well, chemistry you know about. 

But I didn’t enjoy school much. As soon as I got a chance to leave, I left. Sixteen, gone. It was too restrictive, too conservative, too… all of those things I didn’t want. Enough was enough. 

What would you tell students who were struggling in Design?

What would I tell them, or what would I ask them? I wouldn’t tell them anything, I’d ask them why they were struggling. And try to do something about that. But I wouldn’t tell them - how would I know? So I would ask them, if you’re struggling, what is it we can do to make improvements? I think we have made improvements in many areas where students have struggled; where they’ve struggled with is with the portfolio - we’ve made portfolio exemplars. I think that helps and honestly, you can see then what you’re aiming at. I think some of the inclusive booklets we’ve put out have helped some students who maybe have some difficulties with learning. So I certainly wouldn’t tell, and I would not suggest the students to go through it. I would ask them what it is they’re having problems with, and we can think about how to create materials, or something else in the classroom that would help them.

What is your life motto?

My life motto? You should have told me this before I started here, thinking of a life motto is difficult. Um… I don’t have a life motto. And when I read quotations, what impresses me changes frequently. I might read something and think “that’s a really cool life motto” or read something later and go “oh that’s a really cool life motto”. So I don’t have a life motto, I get influenced by things people say on a continual basis, but I don’t use that as a frame-mark for action, a frame-mark for your life. 

What is an important life lesson you learnt during your time at RCHK?

Stand up for what you believe in. Regardless of the cost. 

Can you summarise your experience at RCHK in three words?

Inquiry, sustainability, and creativity. 

When not at school, what do you do in your spare time?

Play football, sometimes. Watch movies. Read. Read non-fiction right now, but occasionally fiction. Muck around, learning stuff. Related to computers and other things. I’m kind of a geek.

Favourite book would be the Don Sagas; And Quiet Flows the Don and The Don Flows Home Into the Sea by Mikhail Sholokhov. They probably had the biggest impact on me. And movies? I got a few, actually. Believe it or not, there’s a movie I would watch over and over, and it’s A Chinese Ghost Story, the first one. It was made in 1987, Leslie Cheung and Joey… Joey something. A Hong Kong actress (Joey Wong). But Leslie Cheung was in it… before he died, obviously. So this movie was the first time I had seen one of those Hong Kong martial arts fly by wire movies and I don’t know how many times I’ve watched it. The narrative wasn’t great - it was just one of those typical, ghost-type Hong Kong movies you get, with kung fu and weird Confucianism in it. And Taoism. But for some reason, all of it together was a very entertaining movie I really enjoyed. I’ve gone back to that a number of times - it’s not poignant in any respect whatsoever, but I just thoroughly enjoyed it.