Monday, May 26, 2008
Teach Your Children Well
Today the Australian Business Council recommended doubling teacher's wages to $130,00. There is of course a catch. Teachers who would receive this salary would be paid for teaching in 'undesirable' schools or rewarded for higher qualifications. It's been tentatively well received by the teacher's union. I agree . . there are many who are worth more than that and $75,000 as the top salary for the educators of our precious young minds seems incredibly low. It had me thinking about teachers who made a difference to my life. And I've been to many schools.
First primary school was Hanforth primary. I don't remember a single teacher there, just being separated from my best friend in the world at the time 'Annarrrison . . . ' the girl who introduced me to Marmite. I lost touch with her in 1975 so if you know her, please point her my way.
Second primary school was Cherry Tree Primary in Romily, Cheshire where three teachers remain indelibly imprinted. Miss Holland, the principal. Austere, Chanel Suited with grey hair and far too much red lipstick for her age (probably mid 50's) She was stern, smelled of Elizabeth Arden Blue Grass and used to make surprise visits into the classroom, loved poetry and introduced me to the magic of Grieg's Peer Gynt Suite. Mrs Greenaway, an Aussie on exchange who's perfectly coiffed french roll would end up tussled and aflop on her shoulders at the end of the school day testimony to having had to teach Geoffrey Bailey who also emigrated to Australia. She spoke of Australia and country life and snakes under the bed. I loved her big time. Then Mr Beasley . . I had him in year 4 and 5 before we emigrated. The most devastating thing ever was being slapped with a ruler by a man I loved because I talked as paint was dispensed for an art class. I also had a long and loving relationship with Kevin Fish (student not a teacher) I'm sure he's now gay but we used to gallop around the countryside on our imaginary horses, play dress up, and occasionally did the same with real ones. He had a sweet smile and massive dimples on each cheek. Wonder where he is now?
Then, prior to moving to Australia, HippyBro and I, as the eldest, were moved to Henlow in Hertfordshire to live with our Grandma and spinster aunts for a term, whilst the rest of the family made preparations for the big trip to Australia. We went to Henlow Primary, an archaic little composite school, where we had to learn French and draw ink from an inkwell with a fountain pen. We felt like refugees in this hick little town and I don't remember any of the teachers, just alienation . . .people weren't friendly we were 'eee by gummers' in a southern country town. We made no friends.
Next after the big trip, I had a term as a year six at Manly Primary School and loved the flavour of Devon (luncheon meat, baloney) and tomato sauce sandwiches and liverworst and lettuce. I swapped with a mate whose name is long forgotten, for her salad on wholemeal and familiar flavours. After much persuasion we were allowed Vegimite and lettuce and my Australianisation began. We were taught by a teacher whose name escapes me but my mind remembers long and laboured practice of "Old Father Thames" for and end-of year spectacular which seemed a bit odd in this seaside suburb adorned with shark nets and city ferries and kids wearing shorts and thongs.
Then we moved to Melbourne . . .Donvale Primary to finish year 6, and Mr Vague (I kid you not) was my teacher . . vague by name, vague by nature but somehow strangely memorable. I struggled with maths but hey, my Nana bought me a horse so school life introduced me to Casey Vanderzaag and 'Snoopy'.
I then graduated to Donvale high which was a brand new school adjacent to the primary school, through years 7 - 8 and Mrs Howell introduced me to the magic of the orchestra . . I saw Daniel Barenbaum at the Melbourne Festival Hall and realised the wonderful effect that an emotional symphony can have. She also took us to watch Carla Fracci and reinforced my love of ballet (although I had been lucky enough to have a distant cousin dance at the Doyle Carte with loads of free tickets. By the time I was 11 I'd seen Swan Lake, Les Sylphides, Gizelle and the Nutcracker - I also made a red flannellette nightie in sewing but I can't remember the teacher. It was in the day when boys did woodwork and metal work and girls did sewing and typing.
Then we moved back to Sydney and year 9 at Carlingford High School where I met the lovely Katy Jenkins and had a mad crush on the boy who sat opposite this huge shelter where the canteen was housed. I met him 25 years later . .still handsome . . still tempting. As for teachers, only one. We did Domestic Science which was a euphamism for revolting food. Mrs Barry, known more for the fame of her husband who had a psychologist's column in the Sydney Morning Herald. There I met the naughty girls and learned how to make Brain Fricasee as an invalid menu.
Finally, I became settled at Castle Hill High School . . . is it any wonder I'm a homebody . . and my most influential teacher? Mr Jones . .young, humerous and he actually made Science fun. We eventually attended Uni together. Him doing his masters, us as undergrads but he was just lovely. Had I been single, available and more gregarious, I would definitely have made a pass at him . . .Then there were my two art teachers Mr Macnamara who understood that good pottery was made under the influence of cannibis and Mrs Hagar who said my work was rubbish and melted into a glob of submission when my work wenton "Art Express" and exhibition of year 12 artworks around . . AUSTRALIA . .DIE BIATCH
Ok there are probably half a dozen teachers in my entire life (and I'm not even going into my total hatred of Thea Astley, renown Australian Author, my literature tutor who slammed me for spelling errors rather than my fabulous essays) who seriously influenced my life but they were wonderful, gave more of themselves than was required by the job so . . . you people out there who complain about the quality of teaching? Up the ante, pay the good ones more and ditch the bludgers. There are plenty of each. It's high time we paid the good ones what they're worth and get the bad ones to work in private enterprise where they won't last a minute!
Hail Ms Greenaway, Mr Beasley, Ms Holland (who I'm sure is long gone) Ms Howell, Mrs Price, Mr Stanopoulos, Mr McNamara, Mrs Barry - and Thea? Rest in peace, Your novels suck!
And if anyone knows the whereabouts of Kevin Fish . . . . and while we marvel at an attempt to find life on Mars, will someone focus on life on earth other than David Attenborough.
As you can see, my teachers didn't teach me much . .