G2 grew up in Adelaide and can’t remember a time when she didn’t want to be a teacher. Her mother had an aunt who had remained single and had a career as a teacher in NSW in the 1920’s. Although G2 never met the aunt, her mother talked a lot about her and she was a figure to be admired.
They were also a church-going family, and Sunday School provided a role model in the figure of another unmarried teacher at the church who recruited G2 to teach Sunday School. In particular, she got G2, when she was about ten years old, working with a Downs Syndrome child and preparing teaching aids.
So G2 progressed to a State High School with a conviction that Primary teaching was her dream job. At the same time, a cohort of young, mostly female, teachers had been appointed to the school. A number of these took a personal interest in their students. As classes at the school were at that time organised by IQ, perhaps the young teachers were aware of the expectations of achievement associated with schooling, or perhaps they identified with their students. Whatever the reason, G2 recalls teachers of Science, Mathematics, PE and French who extended learning outside of school and who nurtured and mentored their charges.
In her Intermediate year, Alby Jones, then Director-General of Education, came and spoke to a school assembly about scholarships for the final two years of schooling. As her family did not have much money she applied and received payment for her Leaving and Leaving Honours year. Her matriculation results were good and she was informed that she would need to go to Adelaide Teachers College and university to become a secondary teacher, not Wattle Park for Primary teaching as she had envisioned. At Adelaide Teachers’ College she went through a counselling process to decide on her pathway into tertiary education and teaching. She had studied Maths I, Maths II, Chemistry and Biology in her Leaving Honours year. Emerging demand for PE teachers and her interest led her counsellor to explore this direction with her. The university timetable would not permit her to do Chemistry II and PE in her second year and so she accepted the recommendation that she pick up History as a sub-major and proceed with PE. Her teaching subjects were undertaken concurrently with her university subjects and she formed strong friendships with a group of about eight students in her cohort.
At the conclusion of her course appointments were announced at an assembly of students. Once the list of appointments had been read out, the females were dismissed and the males invited to stay to hear a talk on superannuation and sign the required paperwork. She and her friends adjourned to the David Jones cafeteria for pie and chips and a milkshake.
Her appointment was to a high school in the Adelaide foothills. Between terms three and four she got married, resigned as required, and was reinstated at the school as a temporary teacher.
She was teaching PE, Year 8 Maths and Intermediate Physiology and, as a newly appointed teacher, had an extra allocation of non-contact time. The Deputy Principal who was also the Maths Senior was an outstanding mentor to her.
Since her marriage she and her husband had lived in a teacher house at Mt. Barker. At the end of her first year she asked for, and was granted, a position at another Adelaide Hills high school, where there were teachers across a wide range of ages, including 4 or 5 young women in their second year of teaching. She remembers being asked by the female Deputy Principal to talk to a girls’ assembly about menstruation. When she became pregnant, she had to once again resign.
After a period of studying in the city, her husband was promoted to a position of Senior in a Riverland high school, where the family spent the first night in a motel, with a crying baby, the cat in a box in the shower and Dean Martin and Rocky Page on the radio whilst all their possessions sat on the lawn of the teacher house they were to occupy and which had not yet been vacated by the previous occupants.
Her second child was born whilst she was in the Riverland. She kept her hand in by teaching term time swimming, and, with an early childhood- trained friend, establishing a second kindergarten to meet the growing demand in the town. As there were insufficient trained staff to run it, she was interviewed and appointed as a kindergarten teacher for about two years until the retirement of a PE teacher at a local high school created a 0.6 vacancy. She was able to fill the vacancy and once again obtain permanency. South Australia was one of the first States to offer permanent part time work.
It was now the late 70s, and demand for post-compulsory education saw a new high school planned for the area. There was also an emerging emphasis on Community Schools. G2 was in a good position to take on the position of Community Coordinator. Although she was not paid as a Senior, she went to Seniors’ meetings and worked across faculties. The role also gave her the chance to work with a range local community groups such as TAFE, local Primary schools, the local kindergartens and the local council.
During the second year back as a secondary teacher she was assessed for PE Senior. There were four categories in the assessment. She obtained an A in three of the categories, and a E in the fourth, which was Professional Development which was not obtainable in the country! She was then ranked ninth on the list of those to be offered PE Senior’s positions.
By now she had also obtained 2 subjects towards a Counselling qualification. She applied for Counselling positions and was offered an appointment at a high school in the Western suburbs of Adelaide. At the same time her husband was appointed to a city school.
In spite of the expectations of many of her peers, her new appointment was a really positive experience. There were dynamic, progressive leaders and committed, enthusiastic, talented teachers. It gave her opportunities she would not have had elsewhere. It was also a time of Commonwealth programs in Equity and the school was engaged in Priority Education Programs(PEP) and programs for Girls in Education. Time in the Adelaide Area and Statewide PEP program gave her experience at a more global level, and from this base she applied and won a Deputy Principal’s job at a Girls High School in Adelaide.
Here again, she was working with a group of educators committed to equity and working from a clear and articulated value base to improve education for girls drawn from across Adelaide’s northern suburbs. It seemed that the way forward was to just get in and do it. Her counselling skills could be applied in a different context.
After a period as Acting Principal, she won the permanent Principal’s job at the school and built on the work already underway. She then moved as Principal to a school in the Salisbury/Elizabeth area where she was able to work with some dynamic principals in neighbouring schools and a very active District Superintendent to create an exciting and successful learning environment with lots of community links.
When the principal’s job at her revamped Alma Mater was advertised she did not consider applying. When it was not filled and re-advertised, she felt the pull, and was encouraged to apply. She won the position.
This was quite a different challenge and context. There had been unsuccessful internal candidates for the job. There was a need to bring a stronger social justice consideration to some of the school’s well-established programs and also to link them to similar global movements. She also networked with a group of South Australian Principals interested in the emerging School Improvement Movement and applied this learning in her job.
After 5 years working in this context G2 saw an advertisement for Head of an Australian International School in Hong Kong. After a series of interviews, she won the position and moved to Hong Kong.
The most immediate contrast was that she was largely on her own. She arrived as the SARS outbreak took hold, which added to the complexity of the job. The school had been established as Primary but had just moved into a new very large site. Whilst exciting, the consequence of the new building was the creation of significant debt. The expectation was to rapidly establish a Secondary component and generate the required income. Due to the previous small size of the school there were neither systems in place nor policy documentation. She set about creating a Vision for the school along with processes, systems and procedures to develop and strengthen the educational delivery. She drew on her Australian networks and established global support structures, engaging, amongst others, with a Pan-China group.
When she retired and returned to Australia, she was content for a couple of years, but found herself feeling there was more to life than her now well-established garden. She saw an advertisement for a job to work with a government agency and primary schools – applied and won it. She continues to enjoy the work.
She has reflected on the original Counselling session at Adelaide Teachers’ College, that led her, as a Science student to move towards PE and Humanities. She knew nothing at all about University – was the first in her family to attend. There were so many areas she could have entered using her Science background – Medical Research, for example. None of this figured in the Counselling session. She has no regrets, but recognises now that it could have been different.
The thing that would likely have been the same whatever path she chose was her life-long interest in and commitment to social justice, which she believes came from her mother and her mother’s values. Her family had a strong humanitarian view based in experience of the Great Depression. This over-rode prejudice (for example, helping the German family down the road in the years following WWII). Her father was a strong Unionist and she aligned his passion with things in her life. She was nurtured in an environment in which awareness of, and assistance to, those who did not have advantages was essential and taken for granted.
This is still her value system.