Speirs Medal 2018: Pat Shannon goes straight to the heart of teaching

Over 30 personal friends and members of the extended Shannon family turned out on Founder’s Day Nov. 22 to support Selwyn House English teacher Pat Shannon as he received the school’s highest honour.
On the heels of his retirement from 34 years of teaching at SHS, Pat was chosen to receive the Speirs Medal, named for the iconic headmaster who led the school from 1945 till 1971.
Though Pat joked that the crowd of nearly 200 were there to hear former SHS teacher Geoff Dowd introduce him, the warm reception Pat received told a different story. For his part, Geoff obviously took great pleasure in skewering his erstwhile colleague. “Pat always made teaching look easy,” Geoff quipped, revealing Pat’s “idiosyncratic” marking system that may have once included a grade marking of 29 divided by pi.
On a more serious note, Geoff had to admit that his silver-tongued friend possessed “a touch of the poet.”
“There has been someone named Shannon here for more than 100 years,” Pat recalled as he acknowledged his many cousins who have attended Selwyn House, all of them descendants of the family patriarch, John Shannon, who was born in Northern Ireland in 1793.
Pat also paid tribute to his fellow Speirs Medallists, including Rob Wearing, who died on Founder’s Day one year ago. “Like all of you, I would have cherished seeing him one more time,” he said, quoting Retired Headmaster Will Mitchell as saying that, “There might be other guys like Rob in the world, but we had the original.”
He gave a heartfelt mention of his colleagues in the Senior English Department—“my mates for 30 years”—as well as the teachers who taught his three sons: James 2008, Liam 2012 and Conor 2016.
Cutting to the heart of the matter, he confessed that teaching, “Isn’t really work.” Rather, it is an opportunity to engage boys in conversations they were often too shy to undertake with their own fathers. “Your sons thought of you, but they could speak to me,” he said to the fathers of Selwyn House.
Pat obviously also loved his days coaching hockey, even when his teams lived up to their reputation as "remedial athletes.”
“We were always the underdogs,” he recalled. “It would have made a better crest.”
He also had touching recollections of watching shy students respond to literary works as complex as colleague Byron Harker’s production of Hamlet, when “Boys who had never spoken in class would step forward and act their hearts out.”
Pat summed it up by saying what Selwyn House means to his own family. “Selwyn was our village,” he said, adding that the school made his family feel that they belonged.
“Our being here has been, literally, priceless.”
His expression of gratitude for receiving such high tribute was simple and sincere. “I’m truly honoured,” he said.