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Don Jennings (LGB 1964-1995)

Posted By Alumni Office, mercredi, 1 avril 2015

 Don Jennings   Don Jennings

1. When did you work at the International School of Geneva and what was/were your role(s)?
I joined the staff at the International School of Geneva (La Grande Boissière) in September 1964 as a member of the Physical Education Department with a subsidiary role to assist in the Biology Department.

At the end of our first year, on the advice of the wife of the Headmaster George Flett, we took a large apartment in La Gradelle and the school gave us our first boarder. Over five years our quota rose to four. A friend rented a large villa to us and our quota rose as high as ten students. The Director General M. Lejeune accepted us as part of the school Internat: once the school's own boarding house was full students were passed to us, with parental consent. This situation remained until the fall of the Persian Dynasty, at which point there were no longer extra students.

In 1990 I had a physical breakdown and high blood pressure. After three months of paid sick leave and an operation on my knees, I could no longer work in the Sports department and I became responsible for absence and lateness, ELP and FLP. Additionally I became responsible for school discipline outside the classroom, and inside if teachers were missing. We went through a difficult period with outsiders coming on to campus to steal, particularly from the gymnasium changing rooms while classes were in progress. I had quite good liaison with the police who knew most of these young people. I continued with this work until I retired, in December 1995.

2. Describe your life today, where you live and what you do.
For our retirement, we had no wish to return to the UK: both our sons lived and worked in Geneva. Switzerland is a good place to live on a Swiss salary but on a retirement income, impossible! As we wished to remain near the boys we focused on France and found an derelict  farm dating from 1846, not lived in for four years and with no inheritors, being sold by a local farming association in Clermont-en-Genevois. It's a forty-minute drive from Geneva.  With the aid of the mayor and the local artisans he found, we renovated enough of the building to give us an apartment plus accommodation for the two boys and occasional visitors.

A hectare of land came with the building. At the time we were young enough to cultivate as we wished but as age has caught up with us it has become a bit of a jungle. We have rented out part of the building to two friends who have constructed workshops. That also means we have people calling in each day to keep an eye on us. Our son Martin (LGB '82) lives and works in Geneva and usually spends the weekends with us. Mark (LGB '80) and his wife Vienna are American diplomats and travel the world. At the moment they are in Montreal.

3. What are your strongest memories of working at Ecolint?
The strongest memories of  working at the school are naturally sporting, and fall into three main areas, Skiing, Basketball and other Sporting Activities long since gone. Ski Camps (until the school authorities decided to restart school earlier in January) and Ski Saturdays, with Jack Garstang and Arnold Jones also heavily involved, were hugely successful for many years. The trips to Lenk that I initiated were particularly popular! We had a period of great success with Basketball too, with the school becoming Swiss Junior Champions in our own gym before over six hundred spectators in 1978. Jack, Arnold and myself took the exams to become referees and, as we became more experienced, refereed matches all over Switzerland.

I also enjoyed the annual SGIS (Swiss Group of International Schools) Athletic Championship, which we held at Champel with the aid of the Geneva Athletic Club. Many teaching colleagues were wililng to give up a day to become judges for the Track & Field events. All these sporting events came to an abrupt end with the appointment of a Head of PE who belonged to the then modern trend from the UK whereby all competitive sport was wrong; there should be no winners or losers; PE classes should be mixed; and the students could choose what they did or didn't want to do. For me the message was that all I had been taught at college and what I had been teaching for thirty years was wrong. Although the day arrived when I had to give up PE and sports, which I had thought never would arrive, I was very pleased to escape the situation that had been created. To this day I do not know how, under the new regime, the requirements for the IB programme and the French Baccalaureate were met.

4. To what extent do you like to keep in touch with former students and colleagues?
I am fortunate that both our sons are former students who keep me well informed with messages from other former students. I am a member of two alumni groups with regular contacts. My computer address book is full of contacts, staff and students, with whom we exchange emails quite frequently. There is a further group of close friends with whom we have a telephone contact quite frequently.

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