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Inside Teaching : August 2010
20 questions* with Chris Sarra DaviD Rish talks with Dr Chris Sarra, and discovers plenty about the man behind the Stronger Smarter Institute at the Queensland University of Technology. www.atra.edu.au | firstname.lastname@example.org 20 QUESTIONS 39 As we speak, you’re in your offce at the Stronger Smarter Institute at the Queensland University of Technology, having swapped from a principal’s desk at Cherbourg State School. Who is more exhausted on a Friday afternoon, teachers in the staffroom or academics in the uni common room? Flat out, teachers. Infnitely stretched teachers are going to be more exhausted. Most academics would agree that teachers in schools are at the front-line, staring children in the face. You rewarded good attendance by students at Cherbourg with iceblocks; how did you reward your staff? Teaching is like being the coach of a football team. It’s crucial to keep up the team morale. Rewards are fundamental whether they be performance-based incentives such as allocating dollars for professional development if they hit the targets, or a note in the pigeonhole to say, ‘You’re doing a good job.’ Who tells better war stories, teachers or academics? Without question teachers have much better stories to tell – teachers are the ones who sweat blood. Personal stories? I’ve got too many to tell just one. What’s the best bit of advice a fellow teacher has ever given you? Be frm, fair and fun. This was from Terry Doherty during my prac teaching period. You grew up the youngest in a family of 10 children; did being the baby of the family help form your character? Can you recall a moment that you thought you’d been treated unfairly just because you were smallest? It certainly shaped my character. I had to be tenacious and have quick reactions when the call went out that it was dinner time. I did okay. It helped me develop resilience and tenacity. It shaped me in other ways, similar to the way it shaped all the members of the family. The unfair bit? Well, every time I see Mum she says, ‘This is my baby,’ and I’m 42 with grey hairs everywhere. Was there a particular place to which you liked to retreat? The Burnett River where I’d sit and think and fsh. It didn’t matter if I caught anything. I’m writing my autobiography at the moment, and part of that process is wondering