Tell us a little about where you volunteer?

I volunteer at the Alexandra Secondary College every term day Tuesday from 10am to 5:15pm.

How did you get into volunteering?

I originally started volunteering in the music department playing with the senior band under Nick Lester. Back then the music room located in the old workshop garage away from the main college complex, a rundown, asbestos riddled and draughty building. So, I started to come in earlier to organise music, fix instruments and generally clean up the dirt that constantly blew into the area. Teaching students how to play brass instruments.
Arranging music specifically to suit the student’s abilities that ranged from years 7 to 12.
Supervisory capacity and band performer on music tours.
Custom cabinet work for the new music department.
Arranging music for the college’s annual production.

Then another qualified and excellent music teacher Jack Mithen joined the music team and the need for my assistance became less, although I still contribute my brass know how: currently low student numbers for traditional instruments and two years of COVID restrictions has not helped. On a typical Tuesday I split my time between the science and music department. In the morning I help Shannon Draper in the laboratory preparation area, cleaning, and fixing equipment for classes. Then in the afternoon I help in the music department, as and where needed. Over the years I have upgraded the hall stage lighting system with assistance from the workshop staff and students. Installed new lighting bars, lamps and converting the lighting control from analogue to digital and writing the software to control the expanded system. Then of course demonstrating to student’s sound and lighting design stage craft (a significant challenge due to the halls low ceiling and raised “dance band stage”) and training student operators.

What do you enjoy most about volunteering?

Not being paid! No one can tell me what to do or feel they must find me something to do. I see a need, or someone has a need and I do. Too easy! Something I have increasingly enjoyed doing is working with teachers and students on how to enhance their performance with the technology we have in the hall and importantly the input they must provide. This is all ongoing, a lot of which I do at home during the week and then sometimes more than one day a week at the college. But the confidence building aspects of performance, be it in a play, musical or just a class sketch, I have been privileged to watch students mature into leaders. Next term with Mark Davies supervision and assistance we will run a weekly lunchtime computer and electronics workshop – which provisionally I have called the Micronauts. A chance to develop ideas based around microcontrollers and the IoT (Internet of Things) which exist in every corner of our lives and which we are unaware. Given the pocket money cost of the hardware, it can become a home hobby leading to a potential future career. Or simply curiosity, the fun of making things happen and sharing time with likeminded people.

Is there anything you find challenging about volunteering?

It is always a challenge; I would not find it interesting otherwise. Sometimes I wish I could do more, physical age is slowing me down, but I still have an active, some would say hyper-active mind. I can only say how welcome the staff and student’s have made me feel. The teaching profession is often maligned by politicians and segments of our rabid media. If they had to teach, I doubt they would last a day and the students would know them to be fools.

What would you tell someone who is thinking about volunteering?

Not every volunteering role will suit you. You may have to try more than one before the right one finds you.