AUE Column Dec 2016

My 84-year-old mother, who taught in Melbourne from the 60s through to the 80s, reckons that these days, school kids are too indulged and overstimulated. And she’s not speaking from the skewed benefit of hindsight because Mum’s been raising my late sister’s son since he was 15 months old. He’s seven now and in Grade 1.

“Every week there’s some kind of event or celebration, and every second week I get a note home asking for money for this fundraiser or that multicultural day or whatever.”

I tell Mum she sounds like a grumpy old woman, a Depression kid from migrant parents, stoic and frugal. She looked after them, as much as, maybe more than, they did her.

But Mum, surely things are better now than in your day when you and your little brother were at Fitzroy Primary. You know, when school excursions didn’t exist, when learning was by rote, and when shaming and fear were classroom management strategies.’

Clearly conditions have improved since Mum first started teaching in public education in her late 20s (she was a baby journalist for an Italian Communist rag in Sydney before that). Back then curriculums were less complex, varied and stimulating than what they are today.

‘Of course things are better today,” Mum pipes up. “When I went to school, the Aboriginal and migrant kids were lucky to make one day out of five a week and nobody sent notes home to the parents in those days.’

Mum’s on a roll. Always the journalist, providing background and context to a story’s still important. ‘It was tough for those teachers too with often 40 kids a class and lots of them struggling with the language. No ESL teachers in those days!

Since my sister died, Mum has devoted herself to her grandson’s rearing and education with enviable single-mindedness and energy. I wish my parenting were half as consistent.

But today after our usual morning walk around the Castlemaine Botanical Gardens, she’s irritated.

“It’s as if teachers are expected to be entertainers and festival directors as well as just teach, nowadays. I really don’t believe kids require a teacher’s constant attention and affirmation. A bit of benign neglect doesn’t hurt either, you know.”

“Yeah,” I say, “except that we know so much more these days about student engagement, multiple learning styles and authentic assessment. We have smaller class sizes and better teacher training so of course there’s going to be more going on at school all-round … more extra-curricular opportunities, more newsletters and forms to fill out for incursions and excursions to Sovereign Hill or Japan or wherever.”

“That’s my point. Japan! When I was at school, Japan was the enemy, not a bloody school excursion!”

“You want a coffee at that new place in town?” I suggest.

“No. Save your money. I’ll make us one at home.”

 

 

 

 

 

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4 thoughts on “

  1. Dorothy Ferguson

    Nice to hear from your mum, you have conveyed her very authentically. Plus she’s right. I am feeling, in my Morning Care class, the strong need for undivided adult attention, even the tiny kids want to play games directly and if I get them started and hand off my role to a big kid and go to do something else, the game comes to an abrupt halt and by the time I pass by the table they are all gone and the game is just abandoned. Of course this does speak to my popularity as a teacher and an adult, ha-ha  . . . and I do lavish them with full attention bc I only have them for one hour before school, AND we only ever do the funnest stuff. Still they’re needy little buggers, despite their latest finery, sparkly shoes, fur collars, the bloody works. I might not have had to work so hard at friendship if I was as dolled up as this lot.  Hella cute, tho.I’m so happy to think of you walking with Marie every morning, I ‘m not sure  if I told you that mum did a portion of her nursing training at Daylesford District Hospital (old name) and spoke about the botanical gardens she loved there.  Not too far from you in Castlemaine, right ? Wishing you all a nice seasonal time coming up, I have no immediate plans to come home but when I get it together I will definitely be visiting Melbourne and all around. Of course I will let you know eons ahead.Jennifer just wrote/emailed me, overcome with anxiety, depression; the bagful.  I have the hardest time, any suggestions I make she cans, all ridiculous and stoopid and I dk what I am talking about, so I kinda gave up sending all the latest psychology.  Perhaps bc the latest is all about being “grateful” and appreciating what/who you have in your life . . .gee, sounds just like mum forty years ago !The more things change, bleh, bleh . . .Love you, EV, buds forever.Fraggerstone.

  2. Hi Elly, Great post, as usual. Your mum is so right in some ways, as are you. Finding the balance for kids at school is so hard, as we found out with our own tertiary students. Give Marie my love. Some to you, also. Earl x

  3. Thank you for this piece Elly! It was recommended to me by Nadine C-M.

    I love the way you have given us your Mum’s views and words, but harkened to some discomfiting changes happening in education these days.

    Benign neglect – I love it!!!

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