There’s something special about the relationship between fathers and sons. But what happens when your dad also happens to be your teacher? This month, we speak to families in the business of education from the International School of Beijing (ISB) and Hope International School (HIS). Part one of this two-part post features Owen Fidler and his father Jim Fidler.
A Teaching Tradition
It’s safe to say that teaching runs in the Fidler family. Jim Fidler (Australia) has been teaching at ISB for 14 years, where he has worked as an elementary school assistant principal and a Grade 8 humanities teacher. Both his children attended ISB and his wife, daughter, and son-in-law also are also teachers in Beijing. Fidler’s son, Owen, has been living in Australia for the past few years but is coming back to ISB in the fall to work as an ICT facillitator. Owen fills us in on what it was like to attend the school with his dad back in the day.
What was it like being in the same school as your dad?
As we were in different sections of the school, we didn’t see each other very often. Dad left for school much earlier than I did, so I usually took the bus. We drove home together though, and I have found memories of Dad’s mix CDs playing Sting and JJ Cale while stuck in traffic near Dashanzi.
I was not lucky enough to have my father for a teacher but I envy the students that did. By all accounts, Dad teaches like he parents: clear boundaries, logical consequences, and high expectations all rolled into a very passionate, thoughtful, and honest man. Ask his current students and they’ll say the same thing; he will go above and beyond to help you. But if you cross the line, you’ll know about it!
What were some of the advantages of going to the same school as your dad?
Getting help with homework. Seriously, having parents as teachers makes homework much easier.
What did you like least about going to the same school as your dad?
My parents’ social circle [was also made up of]ISB teachers, so there was no escaping school. Thankfully, they kept good company.
Did your dad expect you to do well in his subjects?
Humanities and English were always strong subjects for me; it’s probably why I enjoy teaching them so much. Dad’s expectations were no different in those subjects than others. Both my parents believed that if the grade reflected the effort, and if I was happy with the effort, then they were happy too. Both of my parents were always available to help with homework and continued to be so even during university.
What was your proudest achievement in your time as a student at ISB?
When I was middle school student council president, I headed up a campaign to get a fenced-off bike lane from Capital Paradise to ISB. I still remember sitting in the director’s office and making my case. That same director ended up writing me a reference when I left Beijing and I still have it. I also hold the record for the fastest ascent of a mountain in Datong. Grade 8 [classes]stopped going there a few years after I left, so my record stands undefeated!
In what ways did growing up with a father who was also a teacher affect your decision to go into education?
I felt no pressure from either of my parents to go into education. I had originally considered being an architect, then a tradesman, and eventually arrived at teaching through a roundabout process of working in the outdoors on school camps.
Dad always said to follow my passions, and since we’re such a close family unit, I’m not surprised that education ended up being a passion. Once I was well into my education degree at university, I realized just how good an operator my dad is. Dad has been a constant source of professional and personal inspiration and information.
What do you look forward to most about teaching at ISB?
Being a part of such a thriving and professional school. Some of my best years of school were at ISB. I am really looking forward to contributing to helping make its students of today have as memorable a time as I did. I’ll also be in a new position, so I’m looking forward to some new professional challenges and working with teachers across the high school.
What are you looking forward to about coming back to Beijing?
I’m not sure I ever really left. The longest gap between visits was two years, but usually I came back once a year for a few weeks at a time. Our family has been in Beijing since 2000, so my parents have lived there longer than they lived in our hometown of Tasmania.
What was the most important lesson you learned in your time attending school with your dad?
Always follow through on your word and care about what you do. I saw the respect that students, teachers, and administrators held for Dad and a main reason for that is that he cares deeply about his students and always follows through on his promises. And he does it every day.
Photo courtesy of Jim Fidler
This article originally appeared in the August 2014 issue of beijingkids. To view it online for free, click here. To find out how you can obtain your own copy, email firstname.lastname@example.org.