Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Retired Colleagues

Large changes have taken place at Jordanhill, with new courses being launched, and many long serving members of staff leaving/left.

David Stow 2
Originally uploaded by DavidDMuir
So many people left that the normal retirement conventions broke down. For example, at a departmental meeting held just before the summer break, a speech was made by an ex-head of department which gave a general thanks to five people who were retiring but no collection was taken to buy them a gift and no opportunity was given for them to say anything in reply. Which is a bit of a shame I think. With so many leaving, I can understand it is difficult to do things the way they were done in the past... but it doesn't feel right. The large number retiring may make it feel commonplace but to each individual, it is surely still important.

I'd like therefore to mention two people in particular, David Hart and Jack Winch, who have recently retired. I'd like to talk about them for at least two reasons: one is selfish as I'd like to record my panic at the fact that their retirement leaves me as the sole Computing specialist at Jordanhill; the second though is more important because I believe the huge contribution they have both made to computer education in Scotland and beyond should be noted. I was taught by them back in the mid-eighties as part of my preparation to become a Computing teacher and I suspect that between them they have had a bigger impact on the development of schools Computing than any government initiative or curriculum document.

David retired earlier than Jack and had the benefit of a "proper" retirement event. I don't think anyone who was there will ever forget David's story about his demonstration of how to evacuate a chipmunk. (Don't ask!) However, what I remember most about David is his enthusiasm and the quantity (and quality) of resources that he produced. As a student teacher I found his copious notes on BBC BASIC (printed on a dot-matrix printer if I remember correctly) extraordinarily valuable. Also, I am not a well-organised person, and so I greatly appreciated his quiet and effective administration of the courses he was involved with. I don't know how many times last year we arrived at a point in the course and discovered that we'd forgotten to do something that in the past David had just got on with and organised behind the scenes. (For example, we only realised at the first meeting after Christmas that none of us had produced an attendance sheet for the new term. We'd always just had a list when we needed it because David produced it for us.)

Jack retired just before the summer break and I think what I'll remember most about him is his sartorial elegance. His three-piece suits are legendary. (Although standards began to slip latterly when he appeared with the ten bob suit from Matalan!). I also remember as a student, coming out of a tutorial to find Jack sitting playing a grand piano that for some reason was in a hallway of the David Stow building. (I can't remember if he was singing too. I must have expunged that memory from my brain!) Perhaps more importantly though, I remember his patience and his skill at questioning. He had the ability to ask the right questions and prompt you to reflect on your own performance so that you would realise yourself where things hadn't gone as well as they might. And perhaps more importantly, he could lead you to see how things could be improved without brow-beating you or resorting to the "I telt ye, I telt ye!" method that I find it all to easy to slip into!

I am sure there are readers of this blog who remember David and Jack. Please leave your own comments and memories about them here. I'll be happy to pass your messages on.


Mosher said...

I don't know David although several people I've met at the schools I've worked at do! Jack was a *great* tutor (mind, he had to be - propping up those other two last year. Can't remember their names... ;) ) and what you said is spot on.

I had him for my second crit and he was superb at pointing things out without making you feel like a prat for making a mistake.

I can only say that I was very happy to catch him in his final year and have him as part of the team that took me through my PGDE.

Mosher said...

P.S. Second comment as Blogger now no longer has a "Email follow up comments to..." box until you've logged on. And to log on you have to post a comment. Without an "Email..." box to tick.


Ewan McIntosh said...

I didn't get taught by David, but Jack was an absolute hero. A superb listener, someone who always brings the groans and strains of teaching back to a human perspective. That is, do your best and make sure you can say you did to yourself, and take everything else with a pinch of salt.

Please wish both well from me!

David said...

Thanks Mosher and Ewan.

There must be someone out there that was taught by David!

Reverend Walt said...

In all the years I have known and worked with Jack I cannot recall a time when he was other than calm, considered and unflappable. He has always been dignified, bith in his dress and in his speech.
Most importantly (for computing education in Scotland) he has worked tirelessly over the years to ensure that his own students and pupils in schools had the best education in computing.
I join the others in wishing Jack a long and happy retirement. Plenty of time now to play with that iPad!
Walter Patterson

David said...

Hello Walter

Thanks for your comments. I'll pass them onto Jack.

David said...

Also from Twitter:

Pass on my best wishes to them both! Jack was my tutor & David was head of department when I was there (04/05). Happy memories!
From @gouldcomputing

Andy McSwan said...

I was fortunate enough to be at Jordanhill when the computing dept had 4 tutors. (David, David, Joy and Jack)

David was my main tutor and I worked with Jack on the ICT APD module.

I wish them both well in their retirement and you too David as the sole tutor! (Try and not argue with the members of your department)

Mosher said...

I'm just wondering what broom cupboard the uni have shoved David in and how he'd fit all his toys in there. I mean, how can a tutor survive without his Darth Vader Mr Potato Head?

parssupporter said...

Jack and David were my tutors in 2003/2004
Jack was really supportive and our group had some really good laughs while getting on with our work.
I really enjoyed my time at Jordanhill. I am not sure what is happening to Computing. Staff numbers dropping at Jordanhill and Computing no longer being offer at Moray House.
I will always remember Jack for his supportive voice and his elegant suits.
David I will remember for sitting at the back of the class doing my crit typing like mad on his laptop.
Say Hi to Jack and David for me
Best Wishes
Keith Falconer

George Mullin said...

I believe I was one of last cohort of computing students fortunate enough to have the support of 4 fantastic tutors in David M, Jack, David H and Joy. Obviously i was only there for 1 year so I don't have a context to justify saying this, but it felt like a special year... The lessons were fun and the tutors so helpful and inspiring. I've now been teaching computing for almost 9 years and I love my job - I owe a great deal to you guys, Lord knows we need more like you! Delighted to stay in touch - all th best, George Mullin