Chris Bennett studied all the subjects offered by Collingwood Technical School in the mid-60s, including music, English, physics, chemistry, mathematics, sheetmetal work, woodwork, turning and fitting, electrical, art, clay modelling, social studies, and either religious instruction or sex education. He completed Form 5 and passed his Leaving Certificate.
He was not a practical boy and although he completed all his trades subjects his real passion was reading. A teacher who greatly influenced Chris was Mr Lees, who taught social studies and English, who inspired Chris to exceeded the reading requirements for these subjects and read 50 books in six months.
Chris commented that the broad range of subjects offered by the school allowed students many options for their careers and further study; they could choose trades, study music, or eventually go on to university.
The school was well run and discipline was firm but fair. The strap or ‘the cuts’ as it was known at the school, was meted out for such misdemeanours as disobedience, talking back to teachers, fighting or not moving quickly to class after the bell rang. Chris says this focused their young minds “wonderfully”.
Mr Holmes, who managed the Army Cadets, was extremely tough, and was respected if not feared. He lined up the new boys in Year 7, and anyone who played a half-decent note on an instrument was directed into the Army Cadet band. Chris spent two years in the band, until he got up enough courage to tell Mr Holmes that he wanted to leave.
After leaving Collingwood Technical School Chris dipped in and out of various courses and worked in mundane jobs, before returning to study at Preston Institute of Technology in 1972 (then managed by Preston College), to do a year 12 equivalent, the Tertiary Orientation Program (TOP). He later went to Swinburne and did a Bachelor of Arts degree.
He is a member of the Australian Institute of Training and Development, Wushu and Tai Chi Practitioners Association, and also runs a business with his partner specialising in personal and professional development and well-being. He has coached basketball, taught Tai Chi, been a counsellor for Lifeline, and is currently collaborating on an e-book about Tai Chi, writing a memoir and a screenplay. He has also tried stand-up comedy.
Chris took valuable lessons and skills from his time at Collingwood Technical School. He attributes his lifelong self-discipline, his determination to finish a task, even it if takes years, his desire to follow his passions and the confidence to do what he wanted to do, to his formative years at a school that was structured, disciplined, fair, and with a broad range of subjects and excellent teachers.