A cheeky New Year’s resolution tweet by principal John Goh was the start of a mini revolution at his Sydney school.
Merrylands East Public School principal John Goh made headlines when his school decided to change its bell times in 2013, with students arriving for an 8am start.
However, the catalyst for the change came a year earlier with a twitter challenge from Mr Goh as he was travelling home from the 2011 New Year’s Eve fireworks at Circular Quay.
“I cheekily put a tweet up, and I said, ‘Let’s have a real crack at school hours – I want to change the school hours’.
“I think I gave [my director] a heart attack,” Mr Goh said, referring to now Deputy Secretary Murat Dizdar.
The tweet launched a discussion within the wider school community, with the change in school hours supported by 72 per cent of parents.
“It was about our context, we knew our community,” Mr Goh told Department of Education Secretary Mark Scott in the latest instalment of the Every Student Podcast series.
“A lot of our children came from Middle-Eastern, Asian and European backgrounds where historically school started early.”
The early start also meant students were more engaged as they were home earlier (from 1.15pm) when afternoon fatigue – particularly in summer months – set in.
While the change was successful, there were moments Mr Goh wasn’t sure how it would turn out.
“I was a bit worried on the very first day we started. It was about 7.30am and I didn’t see any children on the playground, 7.40am and I still didn’t see any children on the playground, and then suddenly they all walked in the gate at five to eight.”
Mr Goh said social media gave him a view of the bigger picture. “When you start seeing what’s happening in a global [context], you put things in perspective. You don’t realise how great our system is in NSW.”
But Mr Goh knows his real impact is local. “When I go down to Kindergarten and listen to a child read, my whole outlook changes because it gives me more perspective about what’s really important,” he said.
The child of immigrants, Mr Goh said his parents instilled in him a strong sense of social justice and work ethic.
He considered becoming a police officer, but “never made the height restrictions”. Even when he started teaching, running a school wasn’t the end goal.
“I didn’t aspire to be a principal. What I aspired to be was as good a teacher as I could be.”
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