Sitting down at the end of Term 2 to talk with our Head of Science, Dr David ‘Doc’ Wauge, he notes how wonderful it is to have been so warmly accepted into such a tight-knit community and that, despite the onset of COVID-19, he very much enjoys and feels settled now at Carmel.

This year, Dr Wauge introduced ATAR Psychology to the School and our Years 11 and 12 students have just completed Semester 1 of their courses. What drove him to be in the position of teaching both Science and Psychology and how he feels the Psychology course has been received so far formed the basis for an interesting discussion.

It was back in 2001 that Doc Wauge had the frightening experience of injuring his back whilst surfing.  Finding himself unable to walk, he had to crawl back up the beach to his vehicle. “I had a fracture in my lower back – it’s still there, it’ll never go away – and all of my muscles had locked up around it and stopped me from moving.”

Given strict instructions by his physiotherapist to undergo intensive two-year swimming and yoga programs to give himself the best chance of healing, Dr Wauge found himself introduced, by chance, to the practice of meditation, which was built in to the end of each prescribed yoga session.

“I found I actually enjoyed that side of it, so I explored it. You can really explore the mind and how it works through yoga. It’s very powerful. It was useful for me – and it continues to be because I still practise it.”

In fact, ignoring the mind-body connection and treating physical and mental issues as separate and distinct, “makes no sense scientifically,” says Doc Wauge. “If you break your leg, that definitely affects your state of mind…or if you’re under extreme duress, it affects your physicality as well. It makes no sense not to treat it as an interconnected system.”

Sitting with discomfort and not being reactive or getting too caught up in life’s issues as they arise is something Dr Wauge considers to be “one of the most useful skills in life. I think it gives you great choice. When you’re reactive, you have no choice.”

The discovery of meditation back then as a tool to explore his own mind whilst managing his back injury, plus an inherent interest in psychology, formed the basis for Dr Wauge investigating with his previous school the potential of offering an ATAR Psychology course. He went back to uni to take several units in psychology before devising and implementing the course. From an initial 30 Psychology students out of a cohort of 150, interest grew to the point where 65 students over three Year 11 classes took Doc’s ATAR Psychology course.

As a scientist, Dr Wauge concedes that his interest in the crossover between science and psychology lies in the philosophical realm of human perception, “which ties in well with physics. It’s not in the course, but I think it’s quite valuable to understand how a perception of the world is generated and also that your perception, in a way, is unique. No one has the same perception of reality.”

His unlikely position of teaching both Physics and Psychology at ATAR level makes Doc Wauge one of a few teachers nationally who does so. “I think that overlap for me is just fascinating, and that’s the reason I went into psychology rather than another science.”

For our ATAR Psychology students, Dr Wauge sees the course as a useful conduit to, “at least budge their grip on a universal reality and perception of the world. But there’s a lot of self-exploration in the course,” namely the introduction in the Year 12 course of the Myers-Briggs personality test where students can introspectively look at their own traits. “There’s reflection for them, but often there can be revelation in their reflections, because they may not have thought about certain things before.”

In a practical sense, Year 11 students completing their course can ‘bank’ the subject to take pressure off their Year 12 year.

The popularity of the new course has been gratifying for Dr Wauge. “It’s been very popular, which I’ve found thrilling. It’s lovely to see that there are students who are interested in the subject and enjoy it. I think there’s certainly a lot of support in the cohort, and I expect that to continue. If my last school is anything to go by, I can see Psych becoming a mainstay.”

Suited to students with an aptitude or interest in the areas of HASS, writing or philosophy, Dr Wauge notes that the course rewards hard work and that this year’s students appear to be preparing well for their exams.  “Even though I do go off topic often, the resources are driven towards one aim, and that’s excelling in that exam.

“It’s not an easy subject. Psychology is voluminous. There’s a massive amount of information that they have to pack away; you’re looking at 40, 50 pages of notes at the end of the year, whereas Physics, honestly, everything you need to remember is on the back of an A4 page. They’re totally different.

“It teaches them to work hard, to write well and think logically. It’s a really interesting course. I like it. I’m glad I took it up,” concludes Dr Wauge.

It seems Year 12 Psychology student Tanna W agrees. “Psych is very engaging, highly fascinating to study and different from any other subject I have studied in my past years at Carmel. When I walk into the Psych class I’m always excited and eager to learn new and interesting content.”