Humans of Old Trinity #5 - Chris Weinberg

Name: Chris Weinberg

Nickname: Weinberg, and variations of the ‘berg’, e.g. Berg-er, Iceberg etc. If I’m ever called Christopher, it’s usually because I’m in trouble.

Years at Trinity: 2003 – 2009 (Yr 6 – 12)

Why’d you start in Year 6?

Part of it was to be there for school centenary year in 2003. In having the family connections to the school, it was a nice way to get to know what Trinity was all about and be part of the celebrations of the school’s history. It almost went horribly wrong, though, because Dad initially stuffed up the enrolment form and enrolled me for Yr 7, 2003. So my first memory of Trinity was Dad having to come in and make the case to Mr Brown that I should be put in the right year level.

You mention your family connections to the school. What are they?

THe Four Weinbergs - TIm, Chris, Ray and Brett (l-r)

THe Four Weinbergs - TIm, Chris, Ray and Brett (l-r)

I’m the 4th Weinberg to have gone through Trinity. My grandfather, Ray, came down from Alexandra, about an hour’s drive north east of Melbourne. He came down in 1940 as a boarder, and lived in Merritt House until 1944. He had a great time at the school, he was School Captain in ’44 and went on to represent Australia in the ’48 and ’52 Olympics, and coached the team in ’68. For the record, I have none of his athletic talents! He had 3 kids, and the two boys came to Trinity, my uncle Brett and my dad Tim, while my aunt was up at Ruyton. Brett was also school captain, and Dad went through in the ‘70s. Then I came ‘round and Dad explained that I had no choice in the matter of where I’d go to school. Some of the teachers when I was there had taught my Dad too, so I was mindful of the fact that there was a family name to uphold and represent.

How’d you find your time at Trinity?

I loved my time at the school, but I probably look back on my first couple years there and think that I could have done more. I’m really glad that I had some teachers who motivated me and pushed me to step it up in Yr 9 and 10, I became a lot more engaged in all the aspects of school life. I formed some good relationships with teachers, and was inspired by guys like Mr Tudor and Mr LePlastrier to really get involved – being able to work with them is something I’m incredibly grateful for. Getting involved is what makes for a fulfilling time at Trinity. I can look back now and be content with what I did, and proud of what I was able to be a part of.

Chris demonstrating his athletic talents

Chris demonstrating his athletic talents

What sort of a kid were you at Trinity?

 I copped my fair share of sledging, but all in good humour – I think! Some may have called it a bit of light bullying, but it was all in jest – a lot of great banter with my mates, mostly about the fact that my hairstyle back in Yr 8 looked like that of a 70-year-old man, but I thought it was classy then and I think it’s classy now. There was a great sense of friendship – I was probably a bit more of a nerd back then, but the mates I had, I still have to this day. It’s pretty incredible to think that someone you met when you were 12 or 13 can still be a good friend when you’re in your mid-20s looking into your 30s. I’m very grateful for that.

What were the most valuable lessons you learnt at Trinity?

 The generosity of the teachers, in terms of them giving their time, was something I really admired and valued – it was of great benefit to me to realise that other people can have such a passion and interest in your life and where you’re going, getting through good times and bad. I think that was part of the motivation for me to become a teacher as well, and it’s something our school does really well. Whilst Trinity was always a high-performing school academically, it wasn’t as though the school culture was one of being purely focused on academic success. It was about making sure you were well-balanced and involved in lots of other activities, and all through it, you were becoming a good person. I think that was the reason why we were so successful in our VCE. Our cohort did very well, but it wasn’t as though we were purely focused on our studies all day and night – we did well because we were doing a variety of activities, we were becoming good leaders, building a strong community with one another. That’s motivated me ever since to never get tunnel vision, and make sure I’m doing a great variety of things – it gets kind of busy at times, and you can fall into the trap of over-committing, but I don’t think I could have it any other way.

What did you do after school?

Straight out of Trinity, I did a Bachelor of Commerce at Melbourne Uni. I was inspired (probably a strange word to use in this context, actually) by the GFC and the political and economic upheaval of the ’08-‘09 period, and thought studying Commerce would be a good way to get an understanding of that and become aware of those issues on a global scale. I’ve been a political nerd ever since about Yr 9 or 10, and was very enthusiastically following the Presidential election in 2008 – anyone who knows me knows I’m a bit of an Obama fan, I’ve got a fair bit of his memorabilia! And again, getting involved with a variety of things at Uni was really enjoyable. Having a group of mates from Trinity who had come to Melbourne made that transition very comfortable. But it wasn’t easy all the time, and at times it was hard to motivate myself for subjects that I wasn’t going to build upon in further study. But that more independent approach to learning was one I was comfortable with, and it allowed me to enjoy other things alongside.

The transition into Uni is often talked about as being pretty daunting, and a lot of people find it easy to feel lost. How did you deal with this?

There were definitely times I felt like that – not necessarily a crisis of confidence, but you’re questioning yourself and finding the transition difficult. I think the most important thing is to have clarity about what your goal is, and what you’re hoping to achieve. So if it’s about finding a subject difficult or not being engaged in it, thinking about whether it’s actually what you want to be doing with your time at Uni can sometimes be useful in articulating or identifying what your actual goals are – that way you know what you want to focus on. The most important thing is that you don’t suffer alone or suffer in silence, and it might just be a case of arranging a time to go and speak to a lecturer or a tutor.

You’re teaching at Trinity now. Is that something you always wanted to do?

After about second- or third-year Uni I was contemplating what I’d want to do as a career. At that stage I probably thought I’d take a pathway into a corporate firm or a government agency. I’d done a bit of teaching with students, I remember Leigh Attwood inviting me back when I was in third-year to talk to a group of his students about American politics. I really enjoyed that experience, being at the front of the classroom and sharing something I was passionate about. That was a bit of a formative experience for me. I started to realise deep down that none of the careers I’d been thinking about were anything I really wanted to do straight out of Uni. I was fortunate enough that one of my friends was working for an organisation called Teach For Australia, and he helped me organise a coffee with one of their tutors. The TFA model, where you work in a disadvantaged community for two years, was something that worked perfectly for me. To be candid, I don’t think I would have gotten into teaching if not for that. I taught in Portland down the Victorian coast, and I learnt from that that even in Australia, people can have vastly different lives to the ones that we are used to growing up in our part of Melbourne. To not only see, but also live that lifestyle for a couple of years was really powerful.

You’re a bit of a cult figure at Trinity. How do you find that?

Chris and his yr 12 global politics class (2018)

Chris and his yr 12 global politics class (2018)

I came back to Trinity in 2016 covering a colleague on long-service leave. I was about 25 then so I was mindful of the fact that the age gap between myself and the students wasn’t that big. My mindset across the board for teaching is to build relationships with students - if you do that, everything else falls into place, whether it be teaching, or managing behaviour, or students who are having a hard time. So I prioritised building relationships, and the banter you can have with students at Trinity is world class. I really enjoyed that, and out of having banter with the boys, I happened to become a bit of a cult figure – which I was more than happy to embrace, because it compensated for my significant inexperience in the classroom! To this day, I still utilise that if I can’t offer some sage insight into economics or politics, so if there’s the odd meme or sledge that comes my way (which I copped a fair bit of in this year’s Teacher v Student debate) then I’m more than happy to roll with the punches.

Is there anything you’ve regretted?

I mentioned the benefits of getting yourself involved and out there, and maybe something I’ve regretted is perhaps over-committing and getting too much on my plate, and setting myself up for failure in one aspect or another. You’ve got to make sure you know what your core purpose is, particularly in the work force, where you’re being paid to do a job, and that has to be your priority. Remembering what your core requirements are so that you don’t over-commit to too many other things, otherwise you struggle to do any of them well.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever gotten?

It was probably from Colin Coutts, the former head of the Junior School. He told me when I was just getting into teaching to remember to do the little things well. Arriving to class on time, being really organised, following up on things – those things might seem insignificant, but doing them well gives you the freedom to think creatively about the bigger picture. There have been times when I’ve lost sight of the small things, and that has held me back.

Where to from here?

I’m really happy at Trinity at the moment. It’s obviously been a pretty intense year this year, but I’ve loved working with the boys, and I’ve got great friendships on staff. I really enjoy working with Phil de Young, he’s a great boss, and I’m looking forward to working at Trinity for the next couple of years. But I realise I can’t be at Trinity forever, so maybe in the future I might teach overseas, maybe in South-East Asia. There’s also a sneaky chance that I may return to the campaign trail in 2020 and try to redeem myself for my unsuccessful efforts to stop Donald Trump from being elected!

chris and hillary

chris and hillary