Pondering my purpose and priorities here, and the best answer I come up with is… because I loved schools – as a pupil, as a teacher (and short time as principal), and as a lecturer.
I attended Whangarata Primary (Waikato), Harley Street Primary, Masterton Intermediate, then Saint Brides Convent – secondary school for girls – in Masterton (Wairarapa), then attended tertiary colleges in Karori (Wellington) and Palmerston North (Manawatu).
I taught in schools in Masterton, Huntly (Waikato) Papakura (South Auckland), Napier (Hawkes Bay), and Masterton again-as a secondary teacher, then a tertiary lecturer.
I literally “fell” out of teaching when I broke a hip and anxiety threw me into a neurological condition which made me drop like a pole. While recovering, I studied a Creative Writing Diploma course online, from my hospital bed at home. Joined a writing club, a poetry club, met writers and authors in Rotorua and from Tauranga (Bay Of Plenty), then later from farther afield. I was comfortable writing short stories and poems; I’d never thought of tackling a “real book”.
Then I remembered I’d been a published writer from age thirteen. A poem written for my Form II teacher, Mr F.G.S. Turner, had been published in the following year’s School Journal, Part IV, 1964. For eighteen months I’d written and illustrated a weekly half-page newspaper – the children’s page – in the Huntly Press, (c. 1980). A letter to the Editor of the Rotorua Daily Post newspaper (on school fees not being compulsory in New Zealand) had been published as a feature article. So … why not write a larger work?
I got inspiration – in a completely different genre – from a “quick-write” writers’ task at the group: in twenty minutes write a suspense story. I scribbled as quickly as I could (and added a touch or two as others read their shorts aloud) and I loved what I’d written. That short fired me up for a novel which I’m delving back into from time to time.
But as I had such great memories from my classrooms, I began to record them as a side-line, I suppose. “For the family”.
But then our current Labour party government announced education reforms to be instituted – a repeat exercise of what Labour had put in place in their previous reign. So strongly have I felt over the years about the impact of those first reforms on teachers’ roles and requirements, which had led to an unbearable and redundant load of reporting, recording, conforming, and all under the regime of their schools’ Boards of Trustees… that I realised how timely it would be to create a record of how the education system and pedagogies of each period related/relates to the changed system this time around.
I’m determined, this memoir will be annotated with informed commentary on the practices and lessons I received or taught. I’ve regretted tossing out my own copies of teacher guides and syllabus (which were provided at no cost when I was in active service) so I’ve invested in obtaining copies * (or originals where I could) of the curricula and/or syllabi of each period.
This is not going to be a “once over, lightly” pikelet flip!
* featured – image from
borrowed syllabuses in use
when I first began, in 1956
Feedback from teachers welcome.
Trainees – will you be waiting to see the completed memoir/commentary?