Who is this? asked Melissa, when she saw me working on this painting.
It’s me, in 1980, I replied. From a photo, taken by the school photographer.
Yes. You look like a teacher! was her response, pointing to the painting.
Back to basics is in the news again. It must be election time. Around 1960, I started listening on the radio, to people like Eric Baume, Andrea, Dita Cobb, John Pierce (Pearce?) and the like.
I don’t know why, but I remember exactly where I was driving home from my first school (Riverstone), when I first heard Ron Casey commence an open-line program. (I was driving through Milperra. This was not President Kennedy being shot. Or Princess Diana being killed. Just one of the early shock-jocks, getting going.)
It has struck me that, whenever there seemed to be few callers, the program host would mention schools. Everyone has opinions on schools and teachers.
We have mixed feelings about sending our kids off to school, to be influenced by other adults who may not always have the same opinions as us or the same way of doing things.
During my first ‘prac.’ (Practice teaching experience) I lugged my piano accordeon, all the way, on the train, from Sydney, to Fairy Meadow, to avoid having to demonstrate that I could teach singing by singing myself.
It became the beginning of teaching lots of songs (Morningtown Ride, Let Everyone Clap Hands like me, Let the Sunshine In, The Emperor Napoleon_…); enjoying teaching art and lots and lots of ballroom dancing, with Square Dancing as a bit of a ’_fun’ thing to do.
I wish that politicians, shock-jocks, etc., would let students, parents and teachers work out among themselves the best way to prepare for life. To trust teacher education and developing experience.
For a while, in those early years I was drawn into listening to those open-line discussions, until, I’d had enough and permanently fled to listening to the ABC.
It used to be so obvious that the hosts had a stock-phrase ready. Whenever they’d get stuck they’d say: " You know what? Schools should be teaching these things ( bike safety, personal development, money management, first-aid, swimming, tight-rope-walking…..) Well. O.K.. Not that last one!
And now, surprise! Surprise! After insisting that schools take over many of the skills that busy parents don’t have time for, they’re discovering that reading, writing and arithmetic should have a more important place again.
I thoroughly enjoyed 37 years of teaching. Had to stop a bit too early. I am sure that I did not please all the (37 x about 33 pupils = roughly 1221) children, between 1964 and 2001.
I am sure that quite a few found my enthusiasm for soccer, singing, art, dancing, multiculturism, holistic and child-centred approach, leaning towards Montessori ideas, tournament of the minds and chess competitions, etc., a bit over-the-top and would have preferred back to basics.
(Although they would not have liked a return to my father’s schooldays. Fair-haired boy, 2nd from the right, at the back.)
Financial reward for the 37 years? I needed a better car, when I retired, so took my superannuation as a lump sum. Was certainly very pleased when I could go and collect my Subaru and have my picture taken with it, when I picked it up.
My cheeky son took great delight in taking this photo, as I was unaware of the sign under which I’d parked it, for the photo.