Until she was ten and a half, C2 attended Prospect House, a Quaker Prep school in Northern Ireland. There she fell under the influence of Miss Baird, a PE teacher who had taught her father. She was old, and reminded C2 of her grandmother. She was a lovely, decent woman who would take C2 out of Maths to do sports practice. She determined to become a PE teacher.
At ten and a half she was sent to an all-girls boarding school miles away from home. A couple of things reinforced the PE teacher ambition.
The boarding school was international and non-denominational. The girls, from a wide range of countries and circumstances (including an African princess) shared stories of their families. Many of the girls’ parents were divorced, separated or unhappy. Marriage did not seem to be a secure future for a young girl. When she returned home for holidays, C2 was aware of her father’s business, which carried “& Sons” in the name. It occurred to her that there was no room for daughters. Although she had been homesick for the first year of boarding school, she found herself bored at home in the holidays and returned willingly to school with renewed determination to follow the PE teacher path.
Her boarding school had a strong sports program. Every afternoon between 3 and 4 pm the girls played sport. If it was raining they walked in a crocodile through the surrounding countryside in their wellies and raincoats. When she was 14 the school closed and the girls dispersed to other schools. She chose Hill Court School in Dublin, because it followed a similar curriculum. At the end of her time there, she chose to take a year off before enrolling, at her father’s expense, in the three-year teacher training course at the all-girls’ PE College in Dublin.
She shared a flat with two other girls from the College, across the road from the US Embassy in Dublin. She was 18. There were 33 girls in the course. The mother of one of them worked in theatre and would get tickets for the class to attend plays. She also attended theatres in Belfast when home to visit her parents in holiday time. She had a very good time.
At the end of the course, jobs were scarce. C2 put a lot of effort into researching available jobs. She discovered there would be a vacancy for a PE teacher coming up at Edenderry, in County Offaly – a small country town surviving on work generated by peat-fired power stations. Now a dormitory town, the population is currently over 10,000. Throughout the 70s it was less than 4000. Because C2 had been so thorough and diligent in her research, the College would not let other students apply for the job – and C2 was appointed.
In order to gain Registration she had to pass an Irish(Gaeilge) oral exam. She did not speak the language and was coached by the nuns in likely questions and answers. She thought the examiner was asking how many students she taught and kept answering 350. In fact, he was asking if she were married and how many children she had! In the end, she thinks her pass had more to do with the need of the school than it did with her competence in Gaeilge. Quite a few students failed.
The school had about 350 girls and 250 boys – pursuing different courses. It was a one-street town with no flats. The only option for accommodation was Bed and Breakfast. C2 was bored. The saving grace was the number of young teachers there – all growing up together and enjoying themselves. After 2 years, C2 successfully applied for a job in Dublin.
She knew she did not want to live forever in Ireland. While at College she spent long holidays in London, and from there travelled around Europe. She applied to teach in Germany, Canada and Australia. She was accepted by Germany and South Australia(SA). Offers from other Australian states followed, but SA was the first. So, aged 24 and terrified, she flew to Adelaide via Amsterdam and Bahrain. When she arrived in Adelaide she knew no-one and had no accommodation. With some fellow-travellers she spent her first few nights in a migrant hostel. The staffing superintendent, who answered to the unlikely name of Chops Mutton, sent her to Craigmore High School where she was interviewed by the Principal, Bill Cameron and the Deputy, Kevin Nitschke. She was amazed to learn that students went roller skating as part of their PE program. In her tour of the school she met the PE coordinator – who appeared to her to be a giant, and the bearded English Senior, taking a drama class with a crook in his hand. Her first thought was ‘They’ve even got Jesus here”!
She had intended to stay in Australia for 3 years. After 3 years at Craigmore she applied to go to Coober Pedy- to see the country. She was appointed to Murray Bridge. After a year she took a year’s leave without pay to return to Ireland so she could work out where she wanted to live. Her friendships and the weather clicked in and within six weeks she knew she wanted to return to live in Australia.
She supported herself for the year in Ireland by working in the office of a steel factory and as the chef at a pub – working with the owner to keep a reasonable restaurant going.
On her return to South Australia she was appointed to Norwood High School where she stayed for 8 years, during two years of which she completed a qualification in Health at Flinders University. She enjoyed the study but found it very hard and stressful. She is nevertheless grateful for the opportunity. It enabled her to teach more Health and to move into adult teaching. Although she loved teaching Middle School students, as she got older it became more and more difficult and the transition to Health Studies provided stimulation and challenge.
After a stint at Gepps Cross Girls’ she worked for a short time writing curriculum in the Education Department. She found this hard grind and a pressure-cooker atmosphere. It nevertheless opened up her mind. Her last school provided opportunities to teach mature age students. She retired from her last school at the end of l2015.
C2 is grateful for many things – for the opportunities her schooling provided to meet students of other nationalities, for a family that was tolerant of difference. She made, she acknowledges, mistakes – but learned from them. She recalls her father saying “ You have to make mistakes, my girl”. Her mother, on the other hand, was more likely to advise her children not to do anything unless they could do it perfectly. She leans towards her father’s philosophy. She is conscious of continuously learning and growing.
She has no regrets about her career. She couldn’t, she thinks, have done more. She has rolled with the punches. She does not wish she had stayed to teach in Ireland.
Teaching has given her opportunities to travel, which she values highly and still pursues.
She has a theory that teachers are so educated throughout their careers that they are inevitable open and knowledgeable – which influences their approach to life. Teachers have to get everyone through the door, they can’t pick and choose. There is, consequently, no room for racism or ageism.
Her one regret is that she never learned to surf.