Meet the Teacher: John Black
18th February 2020
Learn more about Mr Black, a Homeroom teacher for grade 11 in the first of our 'Meet the Teacher' series of blogs.
A little about me: I was born in Sydney, Australia of an Australian father and Swiss mother. As a result, I have had a long connection with Switzerland and I always wanted to live here. I have also lived in the USA as a child, in Austria as a student and later in England. As a young man I was lucky to travel a lot, always on the cheap. My favourite country to visit back then was India.
Favourite book: There are many favourite books. Above all comes “The Complete Works of Shakespeare.” My favourite Shakespeare play is “Hamlet.” I love Shakespeare above all because he has depicted and written about every type of person and every emotion. All of philosophy is contained in his work and, of course, he has influenced the development of the English language considerably.
Favourite quote: Pascal: All people’s miseries derive from not being able to sit in a quiet room alone.
What I love: I love music, especially western classical music. My favourite composers are the usual favourites: Bach, Handel, Beethoven…but there are many more composers I love too. I like piano music a lot and play the piano and harpsichord myself when I get the time. I also really like Indian classical music and enjoy 60s and 70s pop music as well as popular singers of the 30s and 40s – people like Al Jolson and Zarah Leander (perhaps I shouldn’t mention these!) I also love reading, of course.
I have a very organised reading list of 20-30 books which I read on and off at the same time. Once I add a book to my reading list, it has to be read. Most of my spare time is spent reading.
I love food and miss a lot of the things I like eating best from Australia, like fresh oysters and fried lambs’ brains which sounds yucky but are (for me) totally delicious. By the way, oysters and brains don’t go together. I love sweet things, especially chocolate.
Why I love ISZN: I love the smallness and the intimacy of ISZN. It is like a family where everybody knows (or can easily know) everybody else. I like the teachers and the students whom you get to know well because the class sizes allow for better communication and a higher engagement with one another.
I love the cultural diversity of the student body and the staff. There is a great deal of respect among the students and I believe that this is one of the consequences of that diversity which creates such a friendly atmosphere conducive to learning and the formation of good teacher / student and student / student relationships.
The students of ISZN have taught me a lot and have renewed my faith in the integrity of young people and their desire for a better future. I know that sounds like a very pc thing to say but it is certainly what I believe.
Life philosophy: Live your life as though your every act were to become a universal law. This is a very simple idea from the German philosopher Immanuel Kant. It is akin to the old biblical idea, also known as the “golden” rule of “do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”
Life advice for students:
I have learnt far more from the students than anything they could learn from me about life advice. Thinking about my own life experience, I would offer the following morsels to chew over: be open to new experiences and don’t condemn something out of hand because you believe it is of no value to you.
Use your education wisely; don’t squander the chances you have been given to broaden your knowledge of the world and, above all, don’t be so focused on what career you believe you are going to have, that you ignore other areas of knowledge or interest which could contribute to your becoming a many-sided civilised human being.
There are many areas of life you still have to find out about and gaining more knowledge and experience of the world helps you to see the other person’s point of view, to be more tolerant and to realise that behaving in a kind and thoughtful way with an awareness of other people less fortunate than you contributes also to your own sense of well-being and happiness. And finally, to quote a famous ancient Greek: know thyself!