Australian native, Kieran O’Grady has been in Beijing seven years. O’Grady first came to Beijing in 2008 on holiday and fell in love with the city. During O’Grady’s first year in Beijing, he began substitute teaching at Beijing City International School (BCIS) and was then offered a full time position for the following school year. “Ever since I started, everybody at BCIS has been very welcoming and supportive, so it is a great environment to work in, ” he says. The Grade 5 homeroom teachers shares more about himself with beijingkids in our Meet the teacher series.
What was your favorite subject when you were a student?
I really liked history and geography, in part because I was always interested in the subjects, but more because I had excellent teachers in these classes who always made the content interesting.
What did you want to be when you were a kid? What other career options did you explore before teaching?
I always really wanted to play basketball in the NBA or play Australian football in the AFL, but it turned out that you need more than just enthusiasm… apparently they wanted guys who were tough, fit, skillful and brave. (The bravery one in particular really let me down.) Before I was teaching, I did some IT jobs, which were pretty fun because I enjoyed solving problems and fixing stuff. And before that I worked in a cake shop, which was really great.
How would your students) describe your teaching style?
Hopefully they would say that the classes are interesting, fun, and engaging. We offer a lot of student choice in the work students do at BCIS, so hopefully this is reflected in how the students feel about their own learning at school.
What was your favorite book growing up? What are you currently reading?
I was a big fan of the Asterix series of comics. A lot of parents are concerned about their children reading comic books rather than novels, but comics are an excellent way to frame a story and they are great fun to read. If a child is reading something they enjoy, then that is the key to developing good reading habits, rather than a book someone else tells them they have to read. Something I read recently is The Godfather by Mario Puzo. I’ve read it a few times and it is excellent every single time.
How do you like to relax on the weekends?
I like to sleep in, have a big breakfast with some friends and watch a lot of football during football season. I also like going out running if the weather and the pollution aren’t too bad.
Where do you like to go on holiday?
I like going to the beach a lot, and Boracay in the Philippines is one of the best ones I’ve seen. I’ve been really lucky the last few years to get the chance to travel lots and have been to some interesting places, which is something that I really enjoy. I went to Iran a few years ago and it is a great place to visit, with very friendly and hospitable people. A total stranger paid for my lunch one day, just to say thanks for visiting Iran, which was pretty cool. Turns out there is such a thing as a free lunch.
What’s something most people don’t know about you?
In our winter concert at BCIS, I was the mystery man in the Santa suit and giant Santa head who played a (fairly ordinary) drum solo.
What music is currently on your playlist?
A big mix of things. A few things I’ve been listening lately are the last few Black Keys albums, some Howlin’ Wolf, some Curtis Mayfield, and Stevie Wonder, the Clash, some Bowie, a lot of Led Zeppelin and then some pretty intensive thrash metal at times. I play the drums too, so I listen to a lot of really good drummers who play stuff I could never play, like Danny Carey, John Bonham, Igor Cavalera, Jojo Mayer, Tim Alexander and Chris Adler. The teacher in the classroom next to me is expanding his musical tastes based on what he hears when the door is open between our classrooms, but he doesn’t always seem to appreciate the education he is getting!
What do you find most rewarding about teaching?
Seeing a student develop their ideas and their work is the main thing for me. Seeing something start off as a piece that is just OK, and then watching the process as their ideas develop into something that is really good is pretty rewarding to see. Especially when a student can explain the process they went through to come to their understanding, as the process is a better way to demonstrate what a student has learned, rather than just focusing on the final product.
Photo: Courtesy of BCIS
Meet the Teacher is a beijingkids blog series designed to help the Beijing community learn more about international school teachers. If your school would like to participate in the series, please email the school editor at firstname.lastname@example.org