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News > ODU Office News > 30 Year Long Service Award Dr Paul Murray

30 Year Long Service Award Dr Paul Murray

What was it about Bishops that made him stay, and what wisdom does he have to share? Join us for a Q&A session with Dr. Murray, recipient of his 30 Years Long Service award.
Dr Paul Murray OD Archivist and Historian
Dr Paul Murray OD Archivist and Historian

Congratulations to Dr Murray who received his Long Service Award this week.

Q:  What best describes who you are?

A:  Who am I at work? An ordinary individual who engages in a way that tries to affirm others and to feel affirmed through working with them and getting to know them better, in a real and inclusive way, be it generally at school, in the classroom, and in the workplace.


Q: You have been at Bishops for more than 30 years.  How did your journey with the school start and what kept you working here?

This is my 32nd year at Bishops.  I came here having started at St John’s College in 1982.  I came from a corporate background and entered the teaching profession purely by chance and thought I would give it six years, but it’s now forty years later.  I came to Bishops in 1991 where I have taught History as well as I did other work and am still doing lots of other things, as in being the school archivist.  It is as a history teacher that I like to think of myself at Bishops, I still now do the work of a historian; the work of the archivist and in the museum is still essentially history work.  There are also several other jobs I am privileged and honoured to do, such as scholarship admin. 

I took up the most amazing opportunities Bishops provided for further education for which I am eternally grateful.  I think this had a lot to do with being here.  I came here with a BA and since then engaged in further study & research.  I found that the better I was qualified in the field, I had more confidence to be better at my work for the benefit of the students I was teaching.  The students at this school have been all-inspiring as well as some excellent colleagues.  To be in the History Room in discussions, in the Department and Society venues, discussing topical and historical matters and issues, for me was paramount.  Recently, I posted something that kind of sums it up for me: “The schools, St John’s College and Diocesan College are thanked for being institutions of learning inspirational to a history teacher and to the students at these schools, and colleagues in the field, from many other places and schools, such as at the Grade 12 marking venues and at conferences – they are all thanked enormously for instilling in me a love for History and for teaching.”  The latter also points to the fact that I worked at the level of Moderator and Examiner for History.  So, History teaching for me is defining.  Teaching historical skills has been engaging, exciting, and inspiring, to see the responses in the students, and how they love the learning process!  It would not be possible without this inspiration; seeing them respond to the questions, enter the discussions, formulate opinions around historical phenomena.   


Q: What is your favourite memory of your long working career?

There are so many memories and so it’s hard to say.  Discussions, debates, the exchange of ideas in a positive and constructive way, eliciting responses through applying a method for students to construct their questions and answers, to see how they can get excited about learning.  Of the favourite memories are how a student perhaps struggling a bit can be alighted by her / his studies; how that response can provide some confidence; look, I can articulate this, and then that can lead to more confidence. 

Working hard for students for the best grades they can get is something that I strived for and then see it realized, teaching the extra History on a Friday afternoon, and having Tea with the students after the lesson.  When I started off as the Head of History our team had twelve students; today the department is 100.  It’s a fabulous History Department and I still see my colleagues, and love to discuss matters and issues, and it continues to have many students and is still growing. 

Doing the Societies like Lingua Franca, Forum, The Historical Bench, Museums & Archives; seeing students excited about the issues that they hear about and discuss in these society meetings.  It’s an added option, it’s extra-curricular.  I have been running societies non-stop for 40 years, at St John’s as well, Creative Photography (seeing the contestants earn gold medals in competitions), Decimus, Debating, Public Speaking; I’m still doing them & enjoy it all. 

An abiding memory is one day explaining Marxism, and I tried – far too ambitious – to explain how Marx formulated his ideas and this led to the theory we know today.  I wanted to show the connections.  During the lesson trying to explain, a student courteously stopped me and said: “Sir, I understand what you are trying to tell us but where are you going with this?”  That put me in my place, it was just too ambitious, but he saw that it was too ambitious and that was good enough for me. 

Explaining historical phenomena to the Grade 8s – for them at an early age to be able to engage in discussion, and to see how nicely they start formulating their ideas in the field, this then also goes into Grade 9 – is also something never to forget.  By Grade 10 one can start having more layered discussions, and this continues with Grade 11 and in Grade 12 you get them ready for their finals but also the level of discussion becomes different, and this progresses through into AS and A Levels.  By being the Moderator of History as well as the Examiner, getting a doctorate in History, having a history award named after me, the ‘Dr Paul Murray Award for Historical Research’ here at Bishops – I can’t omit this as it’s acknowledging the efforts of the Education Department, Bishops, and individuals such as Mr. Hewett and Mrs. Van Schalkwyk who made this decision (b.t.w., I never sponsored the award as some might think).

Just teaching, it’s Holy ground, it takes Courage. It’s a complex job.

Finally, we should realize we are all learners.  This is an ongoing process.  I was still learning a lot about teaching, just the other day.  The response from a teacher (certainly for me) was very different in the Covid-19 situation than other times.   Teaching must have a strong measure of understanding of the individual and the situation. 

I like to think when I am teaching, what would I have liked from that teacher, to be respected, to be listened to, to have the best from her/him, teaching me, marking my script, and all that comes with teaching.  Being available to explain matters and issues around History, so I can get better at it, improve my skills, know more. 

Understanding people’s history, their place in time, all people, deconstructionist history is vital to get a holistic understanding of the past.  Especially for a clear understanding of the complex society we have. 

To make young historians responsible citizens. 

History is not learning facts.  It’s a lot more, as I have tried to articulate …    

Teaching the 1994 Gr 12s in that year, as South Africa entered its democracy.  I see this as if it were yesterday. 

There is so much more I could share. 

It’s been hard work, but it’s been most rewarding.  When a student says how much enjoyment they got from it all, that’s great, very affirming.    


Q: If there was one thing (wisdom or piece of advice) you could tell people at the start of their working life, what would it be?

It is impossible to do this because there are so many variables and people are different.  But if I may say one thing, it is that for me, studying as much as I can, the hard graft, sitting at the desk and getting the work done, towards that next achievement, learning that next skill set, is what I strive for and hope for.  ‘To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield’, as in Tennyson’s ‘Ulysses’.  I might not have got it right then, and made lots of mistakes, but this striving can be the difference. 

Perhaps also you must try to do something you enjoy, like in my work, I’ve enjoyed teaching in the History Room and everything that comes with the work as a teacher; all the extra-curricular activities, the societies, the tutor meetings, the sport, engaging with colleagues, and being in the Chapel.  If you do not have an element of enjoyment and a longer-term vision that you will enjoy what you do, and do it well, then perhaps you will get a bit despondent. 

The other thing is to respect your family, live true to their wonderful memories; and all with whom you encounter and reach out to them in a spirit of humanity. 

I have also tried as much as I can, to include the spiritual dimension - in my case, I am a devout Anglican and I have loved this, every moment of it, I still go back to St Andrew’s, Strand, the church my Great Grandfather was involved in designing and building, and St John’s where I taught and now Bishops, and the Cathedral, these are important beacons in my life that remind me that after all, we are assured only of the Means of Grace and the Hope of Glory.  We can embrace these.


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