Tag Archives: teaching

1700. The hand we’re dealt

Look at that! 1700 is a round number if ever there was one! Usually for such a significant number I deviate into some true narrative or other. This time I’ve hit a complete blank. I don’t believe in “writer’s block” but I must admit that these last ten or so postings have been like trying to get blood out of a stone. I wanted to get to Story 1700 before Christmas and then have some time off until sometime in the New Year. And so I’ve drawn a blank. Let me think…

Well I’ve thought of something… but I don’t know if I should chat about it or not. Counting up it happened 33 years ago!

The photo incidentally is not of what I am going to talk about – it’s of another group unknown to me, but it gives the general drift.

I dare say those involved have long since moved on. I was teaching Music and English at St John’s High School in Hastings, New Zealand. Hastings had a pretty “varied” population. St John’s High School was a boys-only school and the only High School in the city that would accept students who had been expelled from other schools and couldn’t find another school to attend. That’s how I ended up teaching a class of 24, 14 of whom had a “history”. They were all aged 14. Montzie, for example, had a criminal record since the age of six.

The school didn’t have a great number of resources. My classroom was an old shed set apart from all other classrooms and in the middle of a field. We called the shed “The Shack”. The record player and all the stuff for music were in The Shack. The trouble was: The Shack couldn’t be locked. I told the class that if anything was ever stolen from this shack I’d “have their guts for garters”. (I also had to explain what garters were).

“Don’t worry,” they said, “we’d never steal from you.” We were the only school Music Department in the whole city that hadn’t had all its electronic equipment go missing. And then it happened. One night, the classroom was stripped. The policeman was very nice about it. He took notes and said he’d keep an eye out. That wasn’t good enough for Montzie and friends. Did not the policeman want to know the names of those who took the stuff? Did not the policeman want to know the place in the city where these thieves stored their stolen goods? The policeman was kind of stunned!

With such information it still took six months for the police to act. In the meantime insurance paid for new equipment and when our goods were returned we had two of everything. And Reuben, a master of the “five-finger discount”, would most days bring five or six long-playing records that he’d “got from the shops during lunch break” to replace the records stolen. I explained it was wrong. It was above his comprehension. He was helping out. (And I might add that not even the shops wanted to know because the packaging had been removed).

Many other things happened during the year which can wait another time, except to say I am a master pickpocketer; for they passed on skills you wouldn’t believe. I was never party to their activity, but they were surviving in the only world they knew.

The highlight came when I was selected (because I was pretty good at it) to represent New Zealand at an International Youth Theatre Festival – with theatre performances from Germany, England, India, South Korea, Australia, United States and New Zealand. It was inordinately expensive to get a theatre team to the festival and to survive a week. That is when I started to write little musicals for elementary schools and market them. Within two easy weeks, we had enough money to travel. I suggested we do a performance about New Zealand’s many endangered species. And would you believe? The class wanted to dance it, and from all the five-finger discount stolen records to dance to they chose extracts from Stravinsky’s “Rite of Spring” and Ravel’s “Daphnis et Chloé”. At least I’d taught them something!

It was street-dancing. They did the choreography themselves. It was an outstanding hit! The boys were so well behaved and more charming than I could believe. At the end of the performance the audience didn’t clap; they stood and sang a song they all knew. It was very moving. The newspaper reviews were stunning.

I dare say these kids would be heading for their mid-forties now. Those who aren’t dead are possibly in prison. I know a couple have done murders and some are destroyed by drugs. A teacher can’t keep in touch with everyone.

But they were one of the nicest and most talented group of kids I’ve ever taught. A pity they weren’t dealt much of a hand.

(A Happy Christmas and New Year to all! See you some time in 2020!)

1633. A salutary lesson

Hugo was a teacher of the old school. He believed that students were born with empty heads and it was his job to stuff knowledge into them. SIT DOWN, SHUT UP, AND LEARN.

Guntar was a teacher of more contemporary times. He believed students were born with heads full of knowledge. It was his job to gently draw knowledge out. Good morning everyone. What would you like to talk about today? Perhaps we could share how we feel about it.

Hugo and Guntar taught at the same school at the same time. They were both successful teachers. One pushed knowledge in, the other sweet-talked knowledge out. Well, the next thing was (would you believe?) Guntar was appointed the headmaster. The more liberal stance became official; in fact, it became compulsory.

We care about people. It is the humane way. It takes into account where the students are at and how they feel. You must coax the knowledge lovingly out of each student.

Hugo didn’t think much of the new directive. He complained at a staff meeting. Guntar answered:

“You call yourself a teacher? It’s conservative, right wing idiots like you who are not open to new ideas. I suggest you SIT DOWN, SHUT UP, AND LEARN. As free-minded people we prefer to share and do things in a more open liberal way. So use your initiative and do it my way.”

These days Hugo delivers mail on foot from house to house. It’s a job. Guntar, on the other hand, has risen to new heights; he’s now a bigwig in the Department of Education. Teachers beware! You had better SIT DOWN, SHUT UP, AND LEARN to be open and tolerant.

793. Wilma’s pet axolotl

793axolotl

Wilma was enthusiastic. She had finished her teacher training. She had applied for a job at the local school. She landed her first teaching job after her very first interview. She was to teach a class of six year olds. How wonderful! Wilma spent most of her summer preparing for the up-and-coming new school year.

Her classroom was a picture: colourful paintings and posters and blocks and educational toys and everything… just everything. And pride of place was a real live axolotl. The children would learn to care for it; to feed it and keep its living quarters clean.

The first day arrived! Welcome children! Welcome! Let’s learn everyone’s names!…

… And last, but not least, is the classroom’s pet Axolotl. His name is Joachim. Say hello to Joachim, children.

Wilma enthusiastically gesticulated towards Joachim, who lay there, in his living quarters, stark raving dead. As stiff as a board.

Award 4: How versatile is that!

© Bruce Goodman 29 June 2015

(First of all, I would like to apologise in advance. I post a story each day, a piece of music on Wednesdays, and a poem on the first of the month. This coming Wednesday all three happen on the same day. I’m sorry for blogging “too much of a good thing” on the one day. Please be tolerant. Hopefully, next Wednesday will pass quickly and without too much angst).

versatilebloggeraward

I love, love, love awards. I hate, hate, hate having to nominate other people. I despise nominating, not because I think others don’t deserve it, but because I’m terrified of rejection and offending and … blah blah blah. Anyway, I accept The Versatile Blogger Award with jubilation and thanks. Thank you Kritika Vashist of From the soul to the nib of a pen. I read Kritika’s blog daily with delight.

There appeared to be no icon/picture sent with the award, so I searched one online (there are dozens of variations – how versatile is that?) and found something old that I dollied up to make look like the Shroud of Turin or something.

I am meant to say 7 things about myself:

1. Back in the bad old days, I got the strap on the hand at primary school for not covering my mouth when I yawned.

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My first day at primary school – 1955

2. Back in the bad old days, I was the first in my year at high school to get caned (age: 13).

3. Back in the bad old days, I got caned 99 times in my first year at high school. We were having a race to get to 100.

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My first year at secondary school – 1963

4. Back in the bad old days, I got “disestablished” as a teacher by a high school board of a school I didn’t even teach at! The Education Ministry had told the school to cut the number of teachers so they “disestablished” me to make it look good. It was very surreal (and it made me pretty angry if you must know and became rather complicated).

5. Back in the bad old days, I taught music for 40 hours a week with no break. I did this for nine years. There were about 90 students in each class, with forms to sit on but no desks, no books, no blackboard/whiteboard, no musical instruments (not even a keyboard), and not even something to play records/tapes/CDs on. The “classroom” was a bare hall. All this was simply to fulfil the government requirement of a compulsory hour’s music a week. It was where I learned to tell “a story a day”! The students would race to my class to find out how the previous week’s story ended!

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The school where I taught – 1976-1984

6. Back in the bad old days, when I went for my driver’s licence (age: 15), just as I was driving out the gate, I ran over a wild rabbit that appeared from nowhere. I stopped the car. The examiner said, “You’re fine” and awarded me my licence without having to do any of the test!

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I got my driver’s licence in one of these – 1965

7. Back in the bad old days, I was fit as a fiddle and would go for long, long runs that could last for hours. Nowadays I can barely walk to the gate to see if the postman has been to the letterbox.

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I couldn’t find a photo of me going for a run, so I downloaded something that I thought might look vaguely similar… Yeah, right.

A lot of people don’t do awards, but check these sites/sights out nonetheless. I know also that some have already received such an award. My nominations (to which there is no obligation attached) are simply the five latest bloggers to follow my blog. Thank you to them: