Mr Goebels: My best GBAS memories come from the UK trips

Who inspired him most at GBAS, what is killing school spirit, what single significant change he would make at the School, and what his plans for the future are. Mr Lorenz Goebels, GBAS ex-teacher (2004-13).

(Interview by Štefan Korbeľ)

The Swallow, X-Mas 2013 Issue, is going to be out soon! Will you be able to see through the mighty word of Mr Ruman? Slávka Vimpeľová asks whether ‘to read or not read’, and there is a short story by our alumna published earlier in Dotyky. The Travel Grant winners tell us about their experience, current Head of the Students’ Council talks about MiniFest which she organized in the Summer, and more.

In the meantime, do not forget to register for free to be able to read the whole magazine when it comes out! If registered, please take a minute to update your details.

In your farewell speech, you claimed that the GBAS community is losing its spirit. Why? What has changed since you came in 2004?

Well, to start with, this is simply an echo of what I have been hearing students say for many years now, but maybe I see things in a different way to the complainers. From my perspective, the two biggest failings in school spirit come from an unwillingness of many students to take part and the decline in a sense of pride and responsibility. The turn out for school events, such as Hodžafest or the May Ball, has declined dramatically of the past few years. If students are given the opportunity to miss classes then they will readily join in, but encroach on their free time? Nope, not interested. And when they do turn up? Well then we have the problems with drinking and other behaviour inappropriate for a school event. This, for me, is the sort of thing killing school spirit.

Why have you left your teaching position after nine years?
There is a phenomenon called the “Seven year itch” which is where 7 years of anything feels like enough. I held on for two extra. But this last year has felt like hard work. I know that’s how work often is, but I was lucky enough to not feel it that way for nearly all the time I spent there. So, before I became that grumpy teacher who doesn’t give a damn, it was time to leave.

If you could go nine years back in time, would you choose teaching at GBAS again?
Without a doubt, I can’t imagine teaching at any other grammar school in Slovakia. And that decision nine years ago led me to where I am today and I wouldn’t change that for anything.

What did you most enjoy about teaching at GBAS and being a part of the community?
Being able to talk to the students as friends. I always felt comfortable discussing pretty much anything, whether in a class or not, and not having to put up barriers to ensure the students would continue to respect me as a teacher when necessary.

You said in the Open Day 2012 promotional video that “the greatest strength of this school is its students.” What is the greatest strength of the students themselves?
Not for all unfortunately, but for enough, it is a combination between their drive to do better and their sense of acceptance. But mainly I had a camera pointed at me and was asked to say something so I just said whatever I thought would sound impressive. I don’t do well with prepared material.

What is your best GBAS memory?
As anyone who knows me is aware, I have the world’s worst memory so this is tricky. In general though my best memories come from the UK trips, every year was amazing and I love the time I get to spend with the first years before they become too cool to have fun with teachers anymore.

Who inspired you most at our School?
I think it was most likely Mr Ruman, I would like to think that I picked up most of my good teaching techniques from him because I certainly picked up my organisational and paperwork habits from him too.

What are your plans for the near future?
At the moment it’s mainly about making my evening school successful. It’s now entering it’s sixth year and it’s hard to make it better every year. It is also high time I got on with being an adult so flat buying and such are also part of my plans.

Every year during the summer, you organize/take part in a summer camp called Wachumba Native. What is it? Will you continue with it?
Yeah, Wachumba Native is a collaboration between Native School and a summer camp organisation called Wachumba, where I have been a leader for eight summers and about fourteen camps. We have been lucky to have many leaders from among the students of GBAS too, because they make the best leaders. The key thing about the Native camps is that the whole thing is in English, two weeks worth, and it is the most popular camp offered by Wachumba. I’ll continue until I can’t handle it anymore.

You graduated from the Aberystwyth University in Wales, UK, with a degree in Genetics. Are you still repaying your student loan?
I was lucky to get into University during the transition between free studies and paid, so my university costs were a lot less than they are now. I managed to pay everything off after about my fourth year in Slovakia, seven years after graduation. I do not envy any of you who will be lumbered with a ton of debt after your studies.

Is there a chance that you will ever return to our School?
Yes, though it’s unlikely to be full time. I would like the chance to teach one morning a week, maybe Maturita speaking for the fourth years. And of course, I’ll be a regular attendee of Ribbon parties and Garden parties until no one remembers who I am.

At the 2012 Ribbon Party with Mr Silvester Trnovec

What comic situations and interesting information have not yet leaked from the English Department but should?
Ahh, I’m afraid I took a solemn oath to not betray the department’s trust and leave them with their air of mystery.

If you could make one significant change at the School, what would it be?
I would love to see school uniform introduced. It is a topic that I got to discuss every year with fourth years and, on the whole, we agreed it would be a great addition to the school’s reputation. But I can’t see it ever happening.

What do you think about Sučany Alumni?
It is a great idea as all top schools have an Alumni so this school should certainly have one. It is wonderful to get support from ex-students through the Alumni but I often feel that the current students care little for what is being done for them and what they have to live up to when they leave. Going back to the start of our interview, I’m just not sure if the students care as much as they used to. I hope I’m just being cynical though and the Alumni will grow in number, strength and fame.

Do you think that the students will embrace your farewell speech’s message?
The English department would often point out, that during parent-teacher afternoons, the only parents who turn up are of those students who don’t need their parents to turn up because they are great. I think that those students who take my speech to heart are the ones who already live by it. Those who need to listen and pay heed are the ones most likely to shrug their shoulders and forget about it. So, I doubt it will make any noticeable difference.

Is there anything else you would like to communicate to the GBAS community through this channel?
Just to remind you all that you have been given the best possible opportunity available to any Slovak student and you shouldn’t waste any of it. When you leave, whether its next year, or in five, you want to look back at your time in Sučany and think, “I could not have done that better”.

(Photos: Mr Lorenz Goebels)

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