Teacher Tuesday: Mr Andy Withers
Recently appointed as the Assistant Head of Secondary, responsible for Pastoral Care, Mr Andy Withers is this week’s Teacher Tuesday.
How many years have you been in teaching and where have you taught?
This is currently my fourth year teaching, although I also worked as a Special Educational Needs worker in Secondary Schools for three years before deciding to become a Secondary English Teacher. I have previously taught at a mixed Grammar School and then an all-girls Comprehensive School in the south of England in the United Kingdom, both of which were schools which I thoroughly enjoyed working at and gained an invaluable amount of experience from; whether it be in SEN, pastorally or in English.
How would you describe the KIS community?
Supportive! That would be my key word. Whether it be teachers supporting students, parents showing an active interest in their children’s learning, students wanting to be there for their friends and classmates…the list goes on really. Any time of day, any concern, any occasion when there is a need to speak with somebody, I always feel able to do so, and I hope that is the case for anybody in our community. It is an incredibly friendly community to be a part of.
What do you find most rewarding about being a teacher?
There are a lot of potentially easy answers to give here: Seeing students make progress, seeing results reflect hard work and so on. But I think I will go with perhaps an even more basic, yet fundamental aspect of the job. I get to spend every working day alongside the next generation of young adults as they gain knowledge and learn skills which they will find useful for their entire lives. I am very lucky to be a part of this process. The ideas, energy and optimism I receive as part of this process subsequently makes me better at what I do. They are always learning, and so am I.
You were recently appointed to the role of Assistant Head of Secondary, specialising in the pastoral care of students. What does this involve?
Taking on this role is something I am extremely excited about, as I have been interested in this aspect of education for a long time. Stemming from my early days working in Special Educational Needs, I have always had an appreciation of how important it is to consider students at school as rounded and multi-faceted individuals. As teachers, we can sometimes only perceive the students in our care in an academic context. Of course this is a vitally important part of who they are; school is key; but sometimes it can be easy to forget about the fact that there may be factors outside the classroom which may be having an impact on their time in school, and on them as individuals. Sometimes this can be a positive achievement or interest, but conversely, this could also be a potential difficulty or source of anxiety too. The health, happiness and general wellbeing of the students at KIS has to be paramount. Part of our Mission Statement as a whole school community is to provide a ‘caring and respectful environment’, and my new role is focused on this in particular. So I monitor students both academically and pastorally and then try to pre-empt, spot patterns and sometimes just listen if students need to talk. In order for our students to learn effectively, we must ensure that they are in the best possible state of mind in order to do so. If that is not the case, then we look to support and aid them so they can be in that place in the future. It is something I am deeply passionate about.
What are you looking forward to most this academic year?
Last year I was lucky enough to help out with the Black Box Theatre Showcase organised by Mrs Yuen and Mr Bryant in Suria Sabah Shopping Mall. Getting to see the broad array of artistic talents on display at that show was a real eye-opener for me. We have an awful lot of creativity at this school, and it is genuinely exciting to see it nurtured and developed through events such as this. I hope to see more of the Arts at KIS given centre-stage this academic year!
As a Teacher of English, do you have a favourite book and why?
I most certainly do! A close runner up is the play ‘A View from the Bridge’ by Arthur Miller, but my absolute favourite is the novel ‘The Great Gatbsy’ by F. Scott Fitzgerald. A wonderful combination of questions posed about the individual, and about wider society by an author who lived fast and died young, but was able to recognise and view his own mistakes with a certain level of regretful detachment. It is thrilling and heartbreaking in equal measure. My tatty old copy is covered in notes I have made in it over the years. I love it and constantly recommend it to those who have not yet read it.
You are known for your love of music, if you could meet a musician who would it be and why?
For me, this is an easy question. Paul McCartney! He was in the biggest band of all time (The Beatles, not Wings!) He plays bass guitar (my instrument), and in my opinion is one of the finest pop songwriters and performers ever seen. I grew up owning and listening repeatedly to every Beatles album, and they had a huge influence on me as a teenager, and still do as an adult. And he also seems like a genuinely nice man too.
What do you enjoy doing in KK when you’re not working?
I’m a keen walker and love getting out to the various Bukits we have in KK and the surrounding areas. The heat makes it a challenging task sometimes, but nothing beats the view at the top of Bukit Padang or Bukit Gundul! However, something tells me there may be a better view on an even higher ‘hill’ somewhere near here…a mountain even…challenge accepted!