Teaching with vision and compassion
For most of his professional life, David Luschwitz has had a clear vision of the type of teacher he wants to be: The progressive educator who inspires his students to be creative and curious, who equips them to solve problems and find answers to questions themselves. But he’s the first to admit that he hasn’t always got it right.
“To be completely honest,” says Mr Luschwitz, a secondary English teacher at All Saints’ College in Maitland, “at the start of my career, I got it so, so wrong.”
He tells the story of his first practicum at an outer western Sydney high school, which he knew would be a challenging teaching environment.
“I’d heard all the silly expressions that are fed to young teachers, like ‘Don’t smile ‘til Christmas’ and that sort of thing, and so at the time, my approach was to be really strict and hard,” he says. “I had my chest pumped and I was ready to make an impression.”
He set a homework task which required students to write a diary entry. The next day, when some students hadn’t completed the task, he decided to “make an example of them”.
“Once I learned of their various situations, I felt really ashamed of myself,” says Mr Luschwitz, who has been a teacher since 2011.
“I came to the realisation that all kids might have stuff going on that we don’t know about, and once I became more conscious of that, I completely changed tact.”
In the years since, Mr Luschwitz has never made homework compulsory for his students.
“It was the last time that I had these overarching ideas about what was standard and acceptable,” he says. “Since then, I’ve been really conscious about accepting kids wherever they’re at, helping them to become engaged learners – even when they don’t really want to be in the classroom.”
A teaching visionary
When David Luschwitz was at school at La Salle Catholic College in Bankstown, there was one teacher he revered above all others.
He was an English teacher named Patrick Keegan, who served as an inspiration to thousands of students before passing away in 2017.
The blackboard was Mr Keegan’s teaching canvas, and the straightness of his handwriting was astonishing. With a steely vision and an animated teaching persona, he commanded the attention of his students. He could quote the text of classic novels off the top of his head, and he gave every one of his pupils a witty nickname.
David with wife Priscila and daughter Alegra.
Mr Luschwitz cites his former teacher as one of the main reasons he pursued a career in education. He says that Mr Keegan’s English classes “weren’t just about English, they were about life”.
After graduating from LaSalle, the 18-year-old David was accepted into a teaching degree at The University of Sydney. He deferred a year and set off on a long road trip around Australia with his family in a self-built motorhome.
While on the road, he sent a postcard to Mr Keegan to advise him of his path of study.
“I told him I was going to follow in his footsteps and become a teacher, and he sent me back this long, handwritten letter, which was typical of him,” says Mr Luschwitz, now 35.
“In his reply he said that teaching was really important, that it was a noble profession and a good choice for me, and I’ll always remember that.
“I probably haven’t thought about it that profoundly, but thinking about it now, I would say that I actually channel him when I’m teaching.
He drew me to education, and he’s had a big influence in the type of teacher I have become, and the educational leader that I want to be in the future.”
Over the past decade, David Luschwitz has taught English in a variety of settings, including state, Christian and Catholic schools in NSW, and a yearlong stint as a language teacher in southern Spain.
As well as his teaching role at All Saints’ College, he is the school’s Acting Leader of Learning in Creative and Performing Arts (CAPA) – a position that’s given him the opportunity to “marry progressive, visionary ideas with practical, strategic leadership”.
In early 2021, Mr Luschwitz completed his Master of Educational Leadership at ACU, where he undertook research in change management and leadership through change. While he’s held several acting leadership roles in his teaching career, his long-term goal is to be a principal in a Catholic school, where he would pursue an
innovative and progressive education agenda.
“I think an effective teacher in 2021 is a facilitator of learning,” Mr Luschwitz says. “The contributions of students are respected and the teacher looks to guide and equip them to become autonomous learners.”
David sees every day in the classroom as a learning opportunity, and relishes the chance to learn from his students.
“The biggest lesson that I’ve learnt is that I don’t know much at all, both in terms of intellect and in terms of my faith journey and what life’s all about,” says Mr Luschwitz, adding that his students “appreciate that honesty, that openness and that unconditional acceptance”.
“My approach to teaching and leading requires a lot of compassion, a lot of grace, a lot of support and loads of flexibility. It hands the keys to the students themselves, gives them ownership of their learning, and encourages them to be confident, independent and creative – all things that will serve them long after they’ve left school.”
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