“You are an unforgettable inspiration” wrote a year 12 student on the wall of Mr Mulley’s classroom in 2008.
At the end of last year Mr Mulley retired after teaching history at Killarney Heights High School for 32 years. Mr Mulley is a standout teacher. He is passionate about history, expects high standards of himself as well as of his students and, most importantly, he cares deeply about his students.
The walls of Mr Mulley’s classroom are testament to the effect that Mr Mulley had on his students. One year some students wanted to record their appreciation for his teaching and painted some murals in his classroom. The photo above shows what you see when you first open his classroom door. Surrounding the murals are messages scrawled on the wall by his year 12 students upon leaving school. A student in year ten commented recently, “the paintings and writings on the wall proved how much other students loved him and thought greatly of him as a teacher.” She added that they “gave the room a really warm, homey [feel] and sense of community within the classroom.” I am not sure whether these paintings and comments will be retained so just in case I took a copious number of photos of the classroom at the end of last year.
What made Mr Mulley’s teaching so special to his students? His lessons were different and the students knew this from the moment they were greeted by him at the door before the start of every lesson. They then sat down at their desks – but these desks were not arranged in conventional rows as in most classrooms. Mr. Mulley arranged the desks in a circle to encourage classroom discussion. Mr Mulley sat in this circle with his students – he was part of the class.
Mr Mulley is a great communicator and shared his passion for history with his students. “Thanks for the love of history you have given me,” wrote a year 12 student in 2009. In 2002 a student wrote, “[t]hanks for giving my sisters such a love of history which they passed onto me.’ Many students echoed the same sentiments.
“Pink Pink Pink Pink Pink…” wrote a year 12 student in 2002. This is one of several messages on the walls which refer to this colour. Mr Mulley has a strong aversion to pink. He also has a great sense of humour and allowed students to have fun at his expense. When shopping at the beginning of each year for stationery with my daughter we would find a pink pen for use in history classes. We saw some fluffy pink pens recently when shopping for school stationery which reminded us of him. Shopping for school stationery is not so much fun any more.
Yet for all the humour Mr Mulley’s classes were disciplined and much work was done. “He had the best control of his class… because he kept it interesting and was tough on people talking or being rude,” commented a student recently. A year 12 student in 2006 wrote, “I have learnt never to push in at canteen lines now!!” Mr Mulley worked hard for his students and this was reciprocated. A year 12 student in 2002 thanked him for the extra work he did and wrote, “I’ll learn more back for you.”
I don’t have a photo of Mr Mulley, but one of the students drew a picture of him and placed it between pictures of ancient historians under the blackboard.
“… [W]e attempted to nominate you as teacher of the year,” wrote a student at the end of last year, “But the rules said you had to accept, and we knew you wouldn’t.” Mr Mulley did not seek accolades, he sought the best for his students. He did not want a big farewell – in fact he didn’t let many people know that he was leaving so we didn’t have an opportunity to show our appreciation.
I’ll leave the final word to a student who left school in 2006:
Dear Mulley! Thank you for your love, kindness, passion, and humour… Thankyou!! You have the biggest heart and when times get hard remember that!