Sunday, 21 March 2010

Memories from Yesterday.

Tempora, mutantur, et nos mutamur in illis.
(Times change, and we change with them.) Or as Bob Dylan said in 1964 "The times they are a'changing". Change is often subtle, almost imperceptible, not to be judged in the short term. I taught in a very average secondary school for many years. I read my diary from 1985 and the memories come flooding back.
Friday 22nd March 1985

Slightly unusual day, teaching wise. CSE Orals, an examination whereby fifth-years talk individually on a subject of their choice. Their choice of subject gives food for thought; my own pupils chose the following. My garden, karate, canaries. Aswad (a Pop Group), Derby County, fishing, computers; pistol shooting (this from a female pupil), athletics, jazz bands, judo. Pandas, hairdressing, dolls; CB's, Germany, a child study, dogs, football.
The expertise of children not considered academic is interesting. The girl athlete is rated number 24 at her age in the country. A boy showed a grasp of computers that was truly remarkable yet has a reading score bordering on the illiterate. A Sikh girl waxed lyrical on India yet has never volunteered one single sentence in two years whilst in a classroom situation. One girl spoke at length on the problems of a physically handicapped child, illustrating her talk with drawings and photographs. Whilst she talked (we were in a small office provided for the occasion) her nephew aged two played quietly on the floor. The girl in question is in charge of this child whilst mother is in hospital and has attended school today especially to take the oral examination. What is the saying, 'To hide your light under a bushel'. Some of our pupils seemingly do just that!

They say 'Time waits for no man'. What has changed since those less than halcyon days, I wonder? A teacher, aged forty five, now seventy. We know where he is! But children, fifteen, now forty, where are you now. Did you achieve your dreams, your aspirations. I sincerely hope so.


Sueann said...

It really makes you think!! What treasures are hidden from the light.?.

the fly in the web said...

I passed the eleven plus and missed out on this, but I remember still the results being read out in class and one boy bursting into tears as he learnt that he was destined for the'fist and boot'secondary school rather than the grammar scool.
He was a sensitive, intellectual boy from a home that was the antithesis of his qualities and he went down - fast.

No, I still don't think mixed class abilities are good, but I remember Colin crying even now.

ADDY said...

It would be nice to arrange a reunion. Does your old school do that sort of thing?

Happy Frog and I said...

Really thought provoking post.

MYRNA said...

What a charming post. It's so true that some children don't begin to shine until a creative caring teacher brings out the best in them. You sound like one of those teachers. I hope you hear from some of your former students.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for this post, Ken. I was referred to as a 'Noddy' at school and could never work out whether my teachers thought that I was so stupid that I wouldn't know what their metaphor alluded to, or, that I was so beneath them that it didn't matter, anyway.Things may be different now, but back then the scenario was 'once a remedial, always a remedial'. At school, I read Janet and John until the magical May leaving day when I was unceremoniously thrown out so that the 'proper' pupils could pursue their exams; under the covers at home, I read Gorky and no-one ever knew! I got a job cleaning toilets and the stigma of my schooldays took almost 30 years to dissolve.

Anonymous said...

You didnt teach me did you? I was at school in Burton at Wulfric Comprehensive.... now alas no more.

Grumpy Old Ken said...

What a lovely phrase 'treasures hidden from the light'.

Grumpy Old Ken said...

fly in the web
What a sensitive understanding comment. Plus the phrase 'fist and boot' is very evocative!

Grumpy Old Ken said...

i never moved very far away and still see some. But sadly those most successful move away, seldom to return.Not too keen on reunions!

Grumpy Old Ken said...

Happy Frog
Hi and thanks!

Grumpy Old Ken said...

Thanks and welcome. we did our best I hope. still see some, embarrassed when they call you 'sir'!

Grumpy Old Ken said...

Hi and welcome. What sensitive comments, I feel for you. You have great power at times as a teacher and should be aware of this, it is not clever to 'put pupils down'. You write with great insight, you have your reasons for doing so anonymously but you do it with feeling. Good luck to you, sir. ( Now there is an assumption, it could of course be madam.)

Grumpy Old Ken said...

Derby, not Burton, though your erudite style suggests it never did you any harm!

Anonymous said...

I am indeed a 'madam' as you so formally put it. You are right that teachers wield a great deal of power that can either be used to encourage and build up or to dessimate and denigrate. More so, perhaps in the 50's and 60's when teaching was regarded as a profession akin to medicine or law. I suspect that a number of people knew that I was wrongly placed, but 'they' must be right - after all, they were teachers, weren't they?

As one of my hero's, Frankl, wrote,
'...everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.'

Grumpy Old Ken said...

Thank you for introducing me to Frankl. What a brilliant mind. Strangely enough I was brought up as a youngster in the Moravian faith.

Clippy Mat said...

Great story Ken. I bet you were one of those teachers who made a difference to many lives, and didn't even know it.

Grumpy Old Ken said...

Nice thought, thanks.