I was just thinking…
When I was at school in the seventies and eighties, teachers had a pretty good standing in the community. We didn’t tend to make a big fuss about how they could’t teach, or how they didn’t always ‘perform’ for us. We pretty much had similar bullying issues as now but we didn’t have to deal with social media as the kids do now. The whole world didn’t get to have a say, it was just between us. I personally had some pretty awful experiences at school, nothing like the stuff that happens now I admit but to a pre teen at the time it was pretty big. Thankfully I also had some pretty great ones.
I can laugh now, at the many times I tried to hide the salami sandwiches from my friends but was always found out because they could smell them. “Yuk! What’s that?” they’d ask, “It stinks!” Nowadays they’d gladly swap their vegemite sandwiches for one! Or how about the times I wore a dress over jeans and was laughed at – now it can be quite fashionable, and yes my hem was above the knees! Then there are the memories of being called four eyes because I wore glasses due to a lazy eye – which, by the way, was operated on when I was 5. In that same year I travelled back with my parents to Italy for three months. The surgery actually took place after we returned, thanks to my perceptive paternal grandfather who noticed my eye move while staying on the farm. After all that, I presented at school again only to find that my long absence and my failure to understand or speak very little English meant a repeat of preps! Preps for heaven’s sake, I failed preps!
My next memory of school troubles me to this day and is one of the main reasons I work in education.
In Grade 1, after repeating preps, I was often kept back after school because I didn’t know my reader. The teacher would have me sit in a corner and ‘read’. She never really assisted me and I never really understood how to go about teaching myself to read English – you see I knew how to read simple Italian words but that’s phonetic so more easily done than English! That in hindsight, meant I wasn’t as dumb as I was made to feel in school. Every night I would be sent home to ‘learn’ my English reader. That was of no use really as both my parents were Italian! My mother knew some English at the time but I don’t think she understood that she needed to ‘teach’ me how to read in English. I have vivid images of one particular reader about a tiger in the jungle and most probably I could have explained the reader orally using the visuals BUT that didn’t count. I simply couldn’t read English and the teacher had no idea how to engage a student who presented as ESL. I tried.
Thank goodness for Grade Two; enter Mrs. Longmuir. Now, she understood. I soon developed, through sheer hard work and many more failures and disappointments, skills in reading and writing and worked my way through till I finished 4th in my Grade 6 year level! I’ve got a book with a certificate and $10 to prove it! Well, I spent the money in 1976 but I still have the book on world stamps! Now don’t let the topic bother you. It is in fact a beautiful book, bright orange cover, with the reproduction of a gorgeous art nouveau style female figure similar to the image below. (They were obviously aware of my drawing abilities.) I really adored this book and I remember drawing images from it at the time.
Secondary school had its highs and lows; the lows I won’t dwell on but it’s during this time, in Year 9 in fact, when I decided I wanted to become an art teacher. I wanted to be just like Zacher! One thing led to another and I found myself teaching art in a wonderful little girls’ school in Fairfield, NSW. I loved Rosary High. The school closed in 1990 and was re-established as Mary MacKillop College in Wakeley the next year. Sadly, I left at the end of 1989 (my family needed me back) and returned to my hometown of Melbourne where I continued to teach in Catholic schools. And, here I am after 27 years of teaching, still loving it and still wanting more. I thoroughly enjoy working with staff in schools, delivering professional development sessions face to face and on line and I really enjoy working with individual students, exploring different strategies to help them establish successful study skills. I have also relished the opportunity of being able to complete a minor research thesis in 2013 but I do miss teaching secondary students. Hopefully opportunities will come where I can spend some time in different classrooms, while still consulting and completing some more research.
Ideally I would love for everyone to experience success but not without knowing and accepting that failure, whilst debilitating, is a great way to learn. Michael Jordan said it well; “I can accept failure, everyone fails at something. But I cannot accept not trying.”
I’d love to hear your thoughts or perhaps some of what you experience(d) at school; feel free to comment below.