Sunday, 16 June 2013

A Teacher & Parent Viewpoint

In 1964 I think, my daughter, Jill, went to Aylesbury Secondary Modern Girls' School in Bromley. It was also when I began my own teacher training, so I was more critical of methods there than Jill was herself. However, here's a story I'm sure you'll love.
Being very keen on theatre, I took our four children whenever I could. At some time during Jill's 5 years at Aylesbury, we went to see a Shakespeare - Jill thinks it was at the Old Vic while it was still the 'Naitonal Theatre'. Whatever it was, we all loved it (even the youngest of our four children). Jill was so excited by it that she enthused about it to one of the teachers. Shortly afterwards, there was a parents' evening, at which I was castigated for taking Jill to see a Shakespeare play - "giving her ideas above her intellectual capacity".
From 1968 to 1973, I taught English at Cator Park Secondary Modern School for Girls, in Penge. There, I had several altercations with the headmistress. In those days, before drama was on the curriculum, I used it nevertheless in my English lessons whenever I could. Then I proposed starting a lunch-time drama club for one of the years. The Head was horrified, and forbade it passionately. But my passion was just as strong as hers, and I kept nagging, giving all the theory of education values of it that I could come up with. In the end, she looked bored, gave in, and said I could put up a notice about it in the hall, "but no-one will come," she said. I put up the notice, and next day, 70 girls turned up! And kept coming.
Another story from the same school - which only ever entered the girls for CSEs. Having nurtured 'my girls', the ones who'd begun at the school in the same year as I'd begun teaching there, and whom I'd kept for the whole 5 years, I suggested that we enter them for GCE English.  I was told not to be ridiculous - our girls are not up to it. I persisted, nagged some more, and finally she gave in. They all achieved their GCE English, though I'm afraid I have no record or memory of their precise grades. 
Finally, with ref to this Head - during my last year there (I had to move to another part of the country for my husband's job), it was suggested by the Council that a drama studio be built in the grounds of the school. I'd like to think it was because some of the governors had come to watch one of my lunch-time drama sessions, which the Head had suggested - in the hope, I suppose, of them insisting on putting an end to it, but they were terrifically impressed, one of them telling the Head how good they thought it was for the girls, and that they all agreed 'they'd never seen anything like it!' But I have no evidence of that hope. Anyway, plans went ahead, and I helped the architects with suggestions for the interior, which would give drama teachers the most flexible opportunities for its use. By the time it was built, I had left, so I've never seen it, but was flabbergasted to hear that the Head had never allowed it to be used for anything other than assemblies - never drama. She left shortly afterwards, and I've heard that the school now has quite a reputation for performance arts.
In the 1980s, we came back to the London area, and I had an English teaching post at a girls' secondary modern in Mitcham. In my third or fourth year there, I felt that the only way to help some of my girls who seemed to be struggling with things like spelling, punctuation, etc., was on a one-to-one basis. So I instigated a system by which I spent some of my lunch-hour/s in a cupboard-like room that was available, and arranged for girls to come and get individual help, when they needed it. I was pleased with the results, and prepared to keep going. However, my head of department took me to the local pub one day, told me off for doing it "We get paid to teach whole classes, not individual children", and suggested I find another job.