Paul Galea: Hello? Robbie Jones. Paul Galea from International Grammar here. How are you going?
Robert: I am really well. How are you, Mr Galea?
Paul Galea: I’m good, Robbie. You’re allowed to call me Paul, you’re a grown man now and gone from school for a 1000 years.
Robert: It’s a little bit of respect at the beginning, then. Just a little bit. How’s that?
Paul Galea: Okay, that sounds great, mate. Now to talk about names. We always knew you as Robbie Jones but apparently you’re now Robert Jones, which is a little bit more in standing with your position as a CEO of an educational software company. Would you like to tell us a little bit how you’ve got to be that?
Robert: The CEO of a software company? Well, look, I think probably I would have to say not in a very direct route and probably not the standard way. So I mean, I was never really interested in business. I was never really interested in being the CEO of a big company. And first of all, don’t get me wrong. We’re not a Fortune 500 company – I’ve worked for one of them. This is not a startup, but it’s much closer to that than something on the NASDAQ. I was never interested in that in school. What I was interested in in school was things like advertisements, video games and software. I was also really interested in politics. But I think a big passion for me and where I could see myself doing a job that I thought, “Yep, I could do that and I think that would make a positive impact on the world” was in history.
So, I mean, I was absolutely spoiled by IGS when it comes to history, just to give you an example. In my final two years, I had Cahill and Miller for Ancient History 11 and 12, respectively. I had Dr Dearn for Extension History, and I had some joker who timed his world tour to make sure he would be back in time to teach me Modern History for Years 11 and 12. I was always so happy when I had a history period. It was just fascinating and fun to me. And so I thought, “Imagine getting paid to read history textbooks. Imagine getting paid to tell stories and debate the merits of different historiographical approaches and inspiring other people with this same interest. Imagine getting to do that for a career.” It seemed like a lot of fun, so I gave it a go.
I did History teaching at Sydney Uni. You have to do a minor as well. So I did English and I think I heard that Ms Rawlins Way, Mona Rawlins Way, found out midway through my degree that I was doing English. And I think she had a heart attack! I wasn’t the strongest English student back in school, but I actually ran into her a few years later and she was really positive about it. And really pleased. So that was really nice.
Paul Galea: Yeah. Good woman, Mona. A very good person.
Robert: Look, she put up with a lot from me. I had Ms Rawlins Way almost every year for English. There were just two years I didn’t have her, I think, and one of them, I actually had you. Do you remember that year when you taught Shakespeare’s Midsummer Night’s Dream?
Paul Galea: I do. That was me, you, Laurie Horesh in that class. Yeah, There was some big names in that class when we did Midsummer Night’s Dream. Yeah, I remember it well.
Robert: I think my year punched above its weight. I’m sure every year group thinks that, but I think 2006 was a very fine year.
Paul Galea: And like wine, they’re just getting better.
Robert: Until the cork falls in!
Paul Galea: You did your education degree? Tell us what happened then.
Robert: Well, I mean, I was half loving it and kind of, to be honest, half hating it. I mean, half of the education units were just complete rubbish. Half of them were great. They were taught by these interesting, fascinating people who are teaching you really relevant content. And then half of them were people who had never been in the classroom apart from their own prac teaching, when they did their teaching degree, like 30 years ago. And here they were spouting off about this is how you control behaviour, this is how you should manage things in the classroom. And they couldn’t control their own uni lecture. These are people who are in their early twenties who are keen to become teachers, who are really keen for it and these people lecturing have just had no control. So it is clear that they just had no concept of what they were doing and what it really focused for me was this idea of so many of the teachers at IGS that I really enjoyed learning from had these rich life experiences that they could draw from. Their travel to interesting places, they’ve done other things on the side or they had completely different careers or especially in the IGS context had come from a different country, and were now teaching in Australia. This was the kind of new and unusual thing for them and it made me kind of look around my cohort and at myself, and I realised that there were so many people who were just finishing high school, and then they were going to do an education degree, and then we’re going to go back to high school. And there were some people in my cohort who had lived very insular and sometimes even sheltered lives. There were at least a couple of students I knew who were planning to go back immediately to their old high school, and their old high school was going to welcome them with open arms and they were going to teach there. I remember thinking, their seats won’t even be cold by the time they get back there. I mean, mentally I was kind of laughing at them but I think that’s because secretly, I wasn’t that far off. I mean, I’d done a bit of travel. Maybe I’d done a few more odd jobs at that point and had a few quirky experiences but, I mean, not a huge amount, not enough. So I decided that I wanted to do a little bit more with my life before I went into the classroom. I’m still absolutely dead certain that I wanted to be a classroom teacher, but probably more for my own selfish sake and a little bit less for the benefit of the kids to be teaching, I wanted to just have a few other experiences that I could draw from.
Now, by complete chance, I’m in my final year, I’m walking down, Uni road, and I hear my name called out and I look over and there’s this lovely young lady calling out my name, and I don’t recognise her instantly. But, you know, someone called out my name. I’m going to go over and have a chat and say hello, and as I got over, I realised that it was a former IGS, student, and I won’t mention her by name, in case that embarrasses her, but she was very friendly and she remembered me, and we have a bit of a catch up. She mentions that she is working at the United States Studies Centre on campus and immediately when she said this, she starts going into this kind of metaphorical self flagellation. She’s going, ”I know, I know I’m terrible and I shouldn’t be working here blah, blah, blah. ”I think she thought I was literally going to boo her or like turn around and walk away. For the context, for the kids or anyone who isn’t across Sydney Uni politics from the early 2000s or the late 2000s, the U. S. S. C. , the United States Studies Centre had been protested just a little bit when it opened up and there were rumours going around that it was secretly run by the CIA, and it was there to recruit spies to work for Uncle Sam. It was all this big conspiracy but I didn’t boo her.
I was fascinated. I had always enjoyed studying US history and I followed US politics and when she realised I was genuinely interested, not just kind of placating her, she tells me that they have a Master’s programme and that I should look into it. So here I am, just about to finish my degree. I’m looking for new experiences and suddenly the thing that sounds like manna from heaven, the kind of exact focus I’m interested in as a subsection within history is there. The degree was basically just political science and history. It looked like fun. Let’s do this. So you needed to do some subjects outside of history and politics that just kind of weren’t enough to fill up the entire agree. So I threw in a bit of business there to flesh it out and for no other reason than business units seem to be cake walks to me, as everything they were describing sounded kind of like common sense. So I thought, “Alright, that’ll be easy.” That degree was a lot of fun. I really enjoyed that, and it helped really solidify a couple of lifelong passions for me and probably wouldn’t have happened if I hadn’t have run into that old IGS student as well. So that’s just one of those little happenstance moments.
Paul Galea: Well, that one of the things that I kept hearing from the guys who I interview is that when these circumstantial moments come along and present an opportunity, one of the things I think is really important, is that if you recognise opportunity and then take it and make it into something for yourself, that’s a very much a recurring theme in these talks, because it’s very interesting how many people have these moments and go on with them, and it makes a big difference to the way they live their lives.
Robert: Absolutely, absolutely. I think that you’ve got to be listening when Luck’s knocking on your door, for sure.
Paul Galea: Yeah, absolutely.
Robert: Anyway, so I finished the degree and this opportunity comes up to work in advertising. There was this Australian Advertising Council and they were looking for kind of junior positions where they could place you directly into a Council. Like I said, one of my interests in High School had been advertising, and so I thought, “Yes, look, this sounds like another interesting experience. Let’s give this a go.”
I probably had the world’s second shortest career in advertising. I reckon it was just enough to confirm: one, that I wasn’t cool enough for that world, and also that the kind of values that you really succeeded with in that kind of environment weren’t my values but it gave me a couple of cool stories and it padded my life resume just enough to the point that I felt like, “Okay, I could go into the classroom. Now I’ve got some stuff I could talk about that isn’t just when I was in high school or when I was at uni”, so I decided, “Yeah, let’s go into it.”
Now I started working as a teacher, and I always just worked at whatever the local school was. I moved around Sydney a little bit, so I ended up working at some very different schools, and that was just an incredible experience and to be honest, in my heart of hearts, I still think of myself as a teacher who’s just doing something a little bit different at the moment. I think there’s a very good chance later on in my life I’ll return back to the classroom but those experiences, the breadth of them, the ability to connect with some people who come from very, very different backgrounds to me; who’ve got very, very different perspectives. That was fantastic. And later on, when we talk about what IGS helped prepare you for, I can talk for days about how IGS helped prepare me for those experiences. The kind of cultural immersion and some of the differences that you’ve experienced.
I did that for about five years, and by the end of my fifth year while I was teaching at was classified as a ‘hard to staff school,’ and I’d done that for a couple of years It was working okay, but I was also interested in perhaps exploring a slightly different challenge. And then this opportunity just popped up literally on my computer. So the software that we were using as a school, that software popped up saying “Hey, we’re looking for people who might want to work for our team, if you’ve got experience using the software from the school side.” And I thought, you know why not? This looks like it could be fun. And if it doesn’t work out well, I know I like teaching. I could happily go back to that. So let’s do this. So I worked for that company for five years, and by the end of my time, there I was managing one of the sales divisions. I’d helped out with quite a few different bits and pieces of that organisation so I had some broad experiences, but really, my focus has been on sales and the sales team. At the end of five years there, I was starting to get a bit bored. I seem to have a five year itch. We’re at the end of that period so I want to do something just a little bit different.
Paul Galea: So we’re talking about a big, very, very big school management platform. We won’t name names, but it’s used in 90% of the New South Wales State schools and many, many, many other schools. We’re talking about a big company.
Robert: It got bought out by Global Payments, which was a very large American corporation; you know, huge revenue, billions of dollars revenue each year and then they had a merger with Heartland so that ended up becoming a Fortune 500 company. Now we were just a small division in the grand scheme of things; we weren’t bringing in billions of dollars each year or even hundreds of millions of dollars but we were their most profitable venture, I think, in the Australian market.
What that gave me, was this real perspective, because when I joined that company, it had been much, much smaller. I’d been in the company through this period of rapid growth and then to be subsumed into this huge American conglomerate, you get this insight into the next stages of the business as well and how things continue to get faster and there’s all these extra layers that need to be laid on as the business grows. That gave me some opportunity to think about, well, what stage of the business did I like? Did I like it better when it was bigger and things were moving faster, the kind of changes in pace. Or did I like it when it was moving slower and it was moving faster as far as the minutia that was changing and the ability to sort of make a big difference with minor decisions and minor changes? I realised that I’d liked that smaller stage a little bit more. And you know, that’s not to say that the biggest stage is wrong. There are plenty of people who like the really big stage, who really want to be the leader of the biggest corporation that they can. That’s fine but I liked that smaller stage, and so when I was getting this idea of okay, what do I want to do next,
I was actually tossing up going back to the classroom because I felt like, okay, I enjoyed this corporate experience. I could go back now, but then I saw an opportunity to step into the CEO role of a much smaller company. This one’s called Learn Primary. This is who I work for now, and they were looking for someone who had that school experience, they were looking for someone who had that corporate edgy tech experience and the fact that I’d been in a company and helped grow it from a much smaller, to a much larger and even helped through with the merger and acquisition process was something that was really appealing to them.
So I had all these unusual life experiences that on paper you would go, “Okay, that’s not how you become a CEO, ”but it’s one particular company where I was exactly what they were looking for at that particular point in time. I know that you’re fond of kind of pointing out life lessons, and we can probably get to that later. There’s sometimes a very clear path, a very standard path, how to get somewhere and then sometimes there are very unusual round about ways to get there, and that’s fine, too. So don’t worry too much if you’re not working immediately on exactly what you thought the path would be. It doesn’t mean you won’t necessarily get to the destination that you want to get to or a destination that you’re really happy with.
Paul Galea: Very good. Well, that’s one question I don’t have to ask because you already answered it! That’s a really interesting progression. And I like that when the chances came you took them. I like that you are self aware enough to know that when things you doing were not that flash, that you were not that crash hot about what you’re doing, that you were prepared to look around and try something new, and I like the way that when the opportunity came, you grabbed them with two hands. That’s all very positive gear. Speaking of positive gear-your personal life? Give us a little bit of a rundown on that.
Robert: I mean, here we’ve been chatting for quite a while now, and I’ve been going on and on about my work but to be honest, the most important part of my life and the part of my life that brings me the most joy is my family. So I’m married now and I’ve got two perfect children. I’ll fight anyone who says otherwise. Gorgeous, and they’re four and two this month just to date things a little bit.
Being a CEO and working in this kind of job; that’s what I do during the day but I consider myself a husband and a father first, and that’s really what I orientate my life around. If there were moments where I had to make a decision between one or the other, I’d absolutely put family first, and that’s one of the things I really like working with a small company. Everyone here, I think, is a family person as well, and we built out a culture that really responds to that and allows people to put family first as well, without sacrificing what the business needs to achieve. We’re able to find that balance and that’s something I find that you can get with a small company that had that mentality from the beginning. But it’s almost impossible to bring to a larger company if they haven’t had it from earlier stages in their development.
Paul Galea: That’s my experience; that the bigger you get, the harder it is to maintain that because when numbers are increasing, you’ve got to be more organised and less human and things are going to have to be a little bit more set in stone. So yeah.
Robert: Well, I disagree with Mitt Romney when he says that corporations are people, but I do agree that they have their own entity and they start taking on a kind of life of their own, and they get bigger and bigger. And unfortunately, sometimes their personalities are not so nice. So I’m really lucky to work for this company, which has such a wonderful culture, and I’m really thrilled that every day we get to come in and make a positive change and a positive difference in the life of teachers and students.
Paul Galea: Very good. What about your brother, who was also an IGS boy?
Robert: I told you when you first reached out to me, you’re reaching out to the wrong Jones boy. You should absolutely be having conversations with my brother. Lewie is a divergent thinker, and there’s so many people out there who claim to be that and they’re not really that. Lewie’s the genuine article and he knows his values. He knows them really well, and he lives by them. It’s just incredibly impressive the way that he reflects on what is the right thing to do and take the time with it. And then he’ll take actions in his life to do so. He’s now…
Paul Galea: Stop there because I am going to interview Lewie down the track.
Robert: Yeah, I will. I will leave it there, other than to say, if you ever see an interview with Llewellyn Jones in your podcast feeds, download that one.
Paul Galea: Good. So just so I can get this right. Your company, your small company that you’re working with now is working towards helping teachers and students do Maths and English better through online learning modules.
Robert: Yeah, well, look, it’s a simple system, and it needs to be, because if you’re dealing with primary school students, you can’t be doing anything too crazy. The content in the system is all based around the curriculum so immediately it’s not just kind of engaging videos or engaging games, but the student doesn’t learn anything. The intention is to learn and the idea is that as a teacher, you can allocate a lesson to all the students in your class, or you could be allocating very different lessons because, as I’m sure, I don’t need to tell you, there’s going to be variation that with some kids who are years ahead and some kids, who might be a year or two behind on particular areas, so it allows you to digitally allocate particular lessons for homework or for class activities. You know, it could be that you watch the video collectively as a class, and then the students do the tests and the practise and assessment separately. It’s very flexible but each lesson is based on a learning intention from the curriculum, and each lesson has its own little engaging animated video and practise question sets and assessment. So if you’re a teacher, it cuts down immediately on some of the lesson prep you might need to do, especially if you’re going to be off sick and you’ve got casual teachers coming in. You can just allocate to the students, and they can do it for the casual teacher while you’re away.
Paul Galea: Yeah, that’s a good selling point.
Robert: There’s a few good, valid points, but I don’t think I’m here to pitch, the product. But if anyone wants to know more, they know how to get in touch now. It’s Learn Primary.
Paul Galea: Good boy. Never let the chance to get away to get in a free plug, right? That’s my theory as well. Okay. So going back to your actual time at IGS. Give us some of the things that you really enjoyed or remember about it fondly.
Robert: Well, I’m sort of afraid to say I’ve become a little bit addicted to listening to some of the episodes of your show, Mr Galea, and when a new one pops up on LinkedIn, I listen to it on the way home in the car. Correct me if I’m wrong but I believe that everyone you have interviewed or just about everyone has touched on the notion of ‘Unity through Diversity’ on this podcast. Is that right? I would echo that as well. I don’t think I would have become a skinhead racist if I hadn’t gone to IGS. I think that there was already some elements of me that were pretty locked in, and there’s obviously an element of self selection at play here. You’re getting families who prioritise diversity and prioritise those kind of values if they’re sending their kids to IGS but IGS was a years-long intensive and immersive experience and full credit to the school. They really walked the talk on those ideas.
I mean, you look back and you think about lots of policies and practises and decisions, and probably I think about them more because I did an education degree where I was forced to think about education policies and practises and things like that. Some of the big things they did and some of the small things they did as well. They really embedded that culture in and there was a constant focus on continuous improvement in this and other areas as well, which I think is something that a lot of other schools can sometimes get a bit wrapped up with tradition. This idea of we’re doing it this way because we’ve always done it this way and I think IGS was always very open to the idea of we’ve done it this way for X reasons. But maybe if we did it Y way things would be a little bit better? Let’s try it. And even more importantly, let’s be open with the students as well about it. So let’s say to them, “Hey, we’re going to try this and it might work or it might fail but we’re hoping it’s going to work and we hope it’s going to do the following things.” And I think that sort of modelling of why you’re making changes was so appreciated as a student and it touches on another area that I think a lot of people have spoken about.
The students were treated with a lot more equality and almost like peers with the teachers and the school. I think that was also really good. As for all the students, who are participating in something, if it did fail, you know, you go “Well, we always knew it potentially could fail from the beginning. ”That’s fine and you move on to the next thing, dust yourself off and keep going. So I think that might have embedded a little bit, perhaps into my brain as well as far as you know in what I’ve done. I’ve kind of concentrated here a lot on the things that have gone right in my life because there’s obviously some things that haven’t been so successful, you know?
Paul Galea: But let’s not go there.
Robert: Yeah, exactly. So I mean, when I think about cultural diversity at the school, I think to myself that it’s almost like an inoculation. Probably I’ve got COVID on the brain, having had it only a couple of weeks ago, but I reckon the IGS experience; that intensive, immersive experience for such a long period inoculates you against a lot of the ignorance and intolerance that you’ll find and that can kind of creep into your life as you get older as well. You kind of start to have this more fixed life and fixed patterns and fixed social network.
I’m very appreciative of that, and I think in both my professional and personal life, IGS; that mindset about diversity and inclusiveness, has made me more comfortable to take some risks and see opportunities that others wouldn’t and I can include that in schools that I have worked for, I can include that with people that have hired, I can include that in any number of different ways. I honestly believe that I have had a richer life, and I don’t mean in financial terms, as far as the quality of my life because of it. At a really simple level, whenever I want to discuss plans without my kids understanding, I can do it in my broken German with my wife, so Frau O’Brien, if you’re listening out there somewhere, you absolutely slogged it through with me through Year 9 and 10 and I don’t think anyone expected me to continue on beyond that point, apart from you and it came true and I continued on with German. So I’m still the worst German speaker I know, but I get great pleasure from doing it. That kind of experience and that cultural immersion that I did from learning German and eventually going over to Germany for a little while was incredibly valuable. So don’t give up. I’m sure Herr Lawrence, who was just a phenomenal German teacher, would have bet his house that I would have dropped German at the end of Year 10!
Paul Galea: ‘Vielen dank’, Robbie. I did German until the end of Year 11 and I still remember a bit of it.
Robert: If anyone wants a concrete example, even from a History perspective, here it is. Learning German made me a better History student because; I don’t know if you remember that I was more willing to take the German side in World War 1, not World War 2. But in World War I, I was wanting to give the Germans a little bit more leeway on some of the things they were saying because I could engage with some of those ideas that they were saying and I had a little bit more empathy for the German people.
Paul Galea: We won’t go there, because the next thing you know, Mr Miller will be jumping in on that, too. Okay. You’ve talked a little bit during this chat about some of the…
Robert: Sorry. I just realised there’s something that’s probably a little bit more specific to me compared to the other people that you’ve interviewed. I think everyone spoke about diversity and everyone spoke about the relationships that they had with the teachers, but there’s something a little bit more that I haven’t heard from other people, and it’s a bit more rare, but it’s not unique. If you wouldn’t mind, I’d love to tell it just because I’m sure that there are some kids right now at the school who are kind of going through it as well. It might be good for them to hear, and particularly good for any prospective parents who might be thinking about IGS.
I think that one of the things that I will always be incredibly thankful for towards IGS is the way that it helped me in working through some of the serious academic difficulties that I had. Now I’m not sure how you’d classify my problems, but I had some kind of cognitive impairment or impairments, and the result was that as a child, I was significantly behind my peers in some key areas of learning. I was functionally illiterate in Year 3, probably even into most of Year 4 I would say. By Year 5, I was starting to catch up in reading, but my writing was, at best, about the level of someone in Year 2 as far as sentence structure and grammar, spelling, even legibility. You know, I had difficulty reading my own handwriting and I was the only person in my Year at Primary School who graduated without getting a ‘Pen License’! I’m still unlicensed today! So when I started at IGS in Year 7, I was still really far behind in lots of areas.
I know now that there’s a lot of schools that just wouldn’t have taken me in after they’d seen a writing sample. They would have said, “Oh, sorry. School’s full,” and closed the door. There are schools that do that, so immediately I’m glad that I was able to come through, but it was more what IGS did once I got through the door that was so important. I would be writing and I was… to put this in some context, I’ve spoken to some people who knew me back then; students who I graduated with or other people from other years and they’ll be really confused by this. They won’t realise it because in other areas I was above average. I was very articulate. I could discuss complex ideas with you. But when I tried to write them down, it would be a mush; sentences incomplete, words missing, combined with spelling that even I couldn’t decipher. The talents I had in speaking were partly because of my poor writing-the mind adapts and you strengthen what you work on because I couldn’t express myself in writing. I could spend all my time speaking and exercising that part of the brain, and it was also an ego thing. I’m good at this. Therefore it is important. So I’m good at speaking. I’m good at engaging in the verbal arts. That’s what I’ll concentrate on.
Now. If I’ve been good at hopscotch, I would have decided that it was secretly the most important skill in life and demanded that the IOC have it as an Olympic event.
You know that part isn’t so bad, the idea of following a passion. I believe that if you’ve got a passion and you’re good at it and you work on it, I believe that there is a really good chance you’ll find something you can do that you will love that will sustain you even if it is hopscotch. There’s some international competition somewhere, but the real risk is that you adopt the inverse view as well. I am not good at this. Therefore it is not important. And I’m not going to try and get better at it because it’s not important. That was definitely me for a long period when it came to things like writing an essay or really any kind of writing. I just wanted to believe that that was not going to be a big part of my life and, being a teacher, if we skip ahead a few years, I have worked now with quite a few kids who’ve had similar skills and problems to me. It is fascinating to see the weird but consistent behaviours that this combination can create – a big, brash ego and self deprecating humour about your issues. You’re trying to hide your deep insecurities.
Most kids would rather be called uncooperative or even lazy than being called stupid, and you get completely inconsistent results, not just in achievement but seemingly in effort. Even in the same subject. You’ll throw yourself at a task that you find natural success with partly just because you enjoy it and it’s going to be so fun and you’re seeing your own success. But you avoid, like the plague, the tasks that don’t suit you and this leads to a very uneven relationship with teachers as well. Huge appreciation and admiration for the ones who recognise your abilities and talents and who in reality, when I look back on it, are going way above and beyond to accommodate you. But you get this really inconsistent or sometimes even really venomous behaviour for the teachers who don’t bend over backwards to find ways to make it all work for you and manage your ego. Huge credit to my parents because they worked very hard to try and find help for me. I mean, there was lots of remedial programmes and activities. I think my mother probably must have read enough to earn a PhD on this topic, and my father was forever taking me around to appointments and tests, but a big part of why they were so happy to see me at IGS was because they felt that I would get lost and left behind at another school. And I think IGS was really ahead of the curve in helping students who had the kind of issues I had.
I remember the teachers being incredibly open to adjusting things to test my understanding separately from my ability to perform in a specific way. Sometimes it’s not that you don’t know the answer to the question. You just can’t express it properly in this particular format. There were lots of things. I mean a really small example. The school also allowed me to take notes in class on a laptop, and this was back in the day when that could be quite a fight in some schools. You know, it made the news about whether or not schools were allowing it or not. That probably sounds really weird to students today because every second student or sometimes every student has got a laptop in class and taking notes. But I can assure you at the time there was resistance in a lot of schools and some of that was valid. There were some valid concerns, but a lot of it was just rubbish and IGS saw through that and helped deal with the valid concerns. So I’ve seen it from the other side.
Now I know that if I had gone to some other schools, I wouldn’t have been so lucky. I have worked in staff rooms where adjustments have seen, basically just as an imposition on the teacher: like, “Why do I have to do this? Why do I need to make those changes?” It’s true that it can be a lot of extra work for teachers, but it made a huge difference for me, and it makes me all the more appreciative of the work the school and the teachers put in. There were a lot of teachers who made a lot of extra time for me, literally time. I could come in and see them on their lunch breaks or before school or after school and talk through things with them. And, you know, once he knew exactly how to phrase things or push my buttons to get the best out of me, I remember one particular History teacher who will remain nameless but was a cross between Hulk Hogan and Paul Hogan, who did some mental judo on me and got me doing extra essays in my senior year and making me think that I was a real rebel for doing so. That was an incredibly important moment for breaking down the last remnants of resistance I had to formal and long form writing, which, as you can imagine, has been incredibly important for the rest of my life. There are plenty of kids who can’t read in Year 4 who don’t end up with the kind of life I have enjoy.
I’m very lucky for lots of reasons-I have parents who are well resourced; that I was born in a time where technology was developing that could help support my needs and learning; that my cognitive issues were more developmental delays than sort of fixed blockers. But IGS was a big part of my success too, and my parents will tell anyone that they think will listen that sending me to IGS was worth every cent they paid in school fees.
Paul Galea: That’s a very, very nice recommendation. Robbie, I’m just going to tell you I remember all that now that you bring it up. I remember spending hours trying to read your handwriting. It was a little bit like translating the Rosetta Stone at one stage, but we got there. Mate, it’s been fascinating to talk to you. It’s been really interesting hearing where you’ve been and what you’re doing and how you’re going and I’m really appreciative of your time. And you and I are going to go and have lunch. We’ll do that once I get out of my second COVID isolation. Speak soon.
Robert: Thanks very much, Paul.
*This interview was recorded in late June 2022.