30 years ago

St Joseph’s School Papanui 1984

St Joseph’s School Papanui 1984

Class of Standard 1 & 2 – Thanks to Brendan who had the photo.

I set up a Google Doc and through my teacher Facebook page, a few past students had added me. I asked for some memories and some wrote about events I had forgotten so thanks to my children from 30 years ago who helped with some my highlights.

In December of 1983 I graduated from Christchurch Teachers College and won a position as a first year teacher in St Josephs of Papanui for 1984. The school was a state integrated school that was a full primary school. We had four nuns teaching still at that time.  I had a class of 32 standard 1 & 2 children.


I was not a permanent staff member so I spent that year applying for a permanent position. 18 months later I finally won one at a different school after 45 rejection slips.

The first day the children arrived I felt really grown up and the feeling of having 32 faces looking up at you awaiting instructions was unbelievable.


Each morning I would send the children running around the block for fitness. As in I would send them out the gate and around the block, unsupervised. At that time, the school was boarded by large paddocks on one side.


The first time I attended full school mass with my class  I bribed the children to sit quietly at church with mini moro bars. The principal said they were the best behaved class in the school and what amazing skills I had as a young teacher. Later on I attended their first Holy Communion and cried with pride. I had such huge emotion.


Each Friday a class would organise school assemblies and how stressed I was when it was our turn but my class always made me proud. In those days we had three terms. The school left me until the final week so I could watch and learn how the other classes did assembly.


When a child was sick, I would think, I hope they are ok. If they were sick for four or more days I would go after school on Friday and visit them at home. I learnt about home school communication from that. The parents used to be overawed by the teacher visiting at home.


Even at that time I was a bit of a geek and can remember the excitement when our priest bought a video player. Once a fortnight, I would send someone over to borrow the machine and we would watch movies from the video shop or the children bought the videos in from home. Later on I discovered that the National Library had children’s’ videos too so I borrowed those as well as the celluloid films. I was technical even then and had my film projector’s license.


Each fortnight I would walk the children down and visit our local library because ours was so awful. Then once a month during my beginning teacher release I would take four children in my car to visit the National Library  and choose a class set of books. I went by myself and was unsupervised.

At that time I knew all the parents by first name because I had the children come and tell me their parent’s name. I kept a handwritten class list. There were no databases at that time only small white cards that were stored in the principal’s office. We needed permission to access the children’s’ personal data. I kept an assessment book, and laboriously cut away the name section so that I would reuse the following pages without having to rewrite the whole class list. Soon after they printed assessment books and you just needed to write in the names. I was first in to buy them out of my own money. The positive was I could keep all the receipts and claim part of the money back on tax as part of work expenses.


As a training teacher I made all my own maths games and was proud of the hand coloured snakes and ladders, chess boards and other games created and then covered with contact. For cardboard I gathered empty cereal boxes by distributing house points for these valuable items. We did not have a laminator. The children also bought in bottle tops and small stones for counting.The children also bought in empty icecream containers. I was really lucky because one mum had access to the local pub and bought me heaps of beer bottle tops. Another worked in an old peoples home and would bring me the giant margarine containers. They were fabulous for storage. This was before Payless Plastic or the Warehouse days. Instead of stickers I had a set of self inking stamps. They were the most expensive teaching tools that I bought. I hung curtain wire across my room and hung the children’s work from that. For reading group boxes the children bought in empty wine casks and I covered these with coloured contact. They were really valuable and worth many house points.


I had a giant homework chart on the wall and laboriously hand ruled the lines. I would stamp the children’s notebook each day and mark it on the chart. The children were eager for the weekly prizes that they were hardly away sick. One parent said how much that meant to them because I had a big class. That one stamp told them that I was paying daily attention to their child.


I began the class with 32 children but lost some as the inspector was looming because  I was supposed to have 25. My year was also the year that they began beginning teacher release. Basically the teacher came in and worked alongside me during reading. This was when she did turn up and was not taken elsewhere as a reliever.


I had one Maori student. Before he had me, he had a reputation with the teachers. He was a good student for me. I think it was because I am Samoan and we made a connection. I  took a real interest in him. I remember several Saturdays driving out to Loburn to watch him compete in motocross competitions. His dad told me it was the first time a teacher had ever taken an interest in him. He would tell me all about his bike and when he was racing. He was fabulous at reading because before my year he spent many hours in the principal’s office. He learnt to read her notes upside down.


I had another student who led the haka and was amazing at creating story books. She would write pages and pages of stories and illustrate them beautifully.  I was often invited to barbecues with her parents and grandparents. Her grandmother made bottled asparagus. They lived not far from me. This same student reminded me of the time I cut the top of my finger with the guillotine. I remember the principal coming back with me to look for the top and packing it in ice for the journey to the hospital. I was really lucky as it was only flesh that was cut. The top eventually grew back after a long time. Nowadays there is no way a guillotine would be allowed in our classrooms.


Another student lived on the outskirts of the city and I visited his house. It was surrounded by farmland and remembered a huge place with lots of bedrooms. I think this was after I had left school. Christchurch in that time still had a lot of farmland surrounding the city.


In each class you always have the diligent and conscientious students. I had one who made contact with me years later. He was the first student to do so.  He said I had made such an impression on him. He is now a chemist. I felt so proud. I love teaching science and I can remember magnifying glass activities but I don’t think I taught much science in that early time.


I had another child who always drew in black. I learnt later that there was a reason for that. We never know what our children bring to school.


One student’s mum used to clean my classroom.  She would help me in my room while mum was working. There was no after school care in those days.


Another student was really quiet but an amazing singing voice. She was diabetic and needed to prick her finger daily. I had to learn to deal with that and was totally unprepared . I was careful about bringing treats to school. I always bought fruit for her.


One student remembers story time on cushions and making three dimensional pictures with regard to the believing in yourself series of books, I remember reading to the children everyday and stopping the story when it was extra exciting like half way through a chapter. In those days it was the Roald Dahl and Beverly Cleary series.  Another student remembers me reading ‘ The Silver Sword’ and how much of an impression it made on him.  I remember trying so hard not to cry as I read that story.


Another student reminded me about awarding Bic Pen with rubbers on the end. The children had to pass a handwriting test to get from pencil to pen. I vaguely remember the pens. They were the first pens with erasers and were expensive on a teacher’s budget. The children had beautiful handwriting in those days. It was part of the curriculum.


This same student remembers the certificates I gave out such as a super BEE haviour award and a Seal of approval there was a bee and seal on the certificates.


One incident involved the boys being given the strap by the principal and I stood by and watched corporal punishment being administered.  Corporal punishment was not outlawed until 1989. I would have been horrified but felt helpless.


My first three way discussion involved one child who bit another child in anger. I learnt later that this was not the first incident but that was before we recorded behaviour.


Some crazy incidents happened like a child getting lice and popping them in her maths book. I had to send her home because live lice meant it needed dealing with immediately. Now we just send a note to every child in the class about an outbreak.

I had another student suddenly throwing up all over her desk and having to clean it up myself. Now we would go to another space and the caretaker would deal with the mess.


At the end of the year I was given the most amazing homemade gifts such as jam, or fruit or homemade biscuits, chocolates. In those days everything seemed homemade. Now when I am given gifts it is usually a voucher or bought chocolates. Even now I still feel strange when parents and children buy me gifts as I think there is no need because I already have been gifted the child for the year. (But I still say thank you 🙂


The building was old and the block of classes  had a wooden verandah running alongside them. The desks were the old wooden lift up jobs with wooden chairs. The walls were high as in really high. I bought plants to lift the depressive atmosphere and blue paint. To brighten the walls, I dyed rolls of wallpaper and hung those up. I bought a staple gun to help with the job and there was no display boards. So it was staples straight into wood. I bought a piece of carpet for sitting on because I wanted a shared mat space. My class had the desks grouped but many of the other classes still had the rows and the mat space was only for the littlies.


I had goldfish and when they died as they regularly did, I would bring in more from a local pond. The first time the  inspector visited he asked the children how long the fish had been there. The inspector would come and check my work once a term. At the end of the year I remember the feeling of elation. I had finally passed and was a real teacher. I no longer had to worry about having my planning checked over. That did not last long as at my next school, our principal checked our planning every term.


As much as possible I would take the children out for softball and games on the playing fields. I allowed bullrush which involved a lot of school jerseys being pulled. This game was outlawed later in the school.


Each Friday after lunch I would take my class down to buddy classes with another young teacher. Her name was Jacinta and this activity allowed me to learn how  to play the guitar by playing with her.  She taught me how to transpose and how to play the guitar by ear.


I was heavily involved in church activities so this was another way of getting to know my parents. In addition I was the staff representative on the parent teacher association.


1984 was the one of the first years for beginning teacher release, but I often did not get it as my release teacher was used elsewhere. I had her for one hour a day spread out over the week. Eventually I was paid back a week all at once because I became very ill.


As a beginning teacher I  coached a school softball team and coordinated their inter school games. Transportation was taken care of by asking the children whose parent could take a car load down to the game. Again I had no supervision and this was all before the time of Rams reports.

I also took junior school choir. The school went up to intermediate level. The following year I took whole school choir.


I formed very close friendships with teachers from the junior area. I do not remember having a team leader but did have a mentor teacher. I probably learnt more from the young teachers around me and in our way we would share resources. I cannot remember team meetings but do remember staff meetings filled with smoke as most teachers smoked.


One nun would gather a $1.00 from us each week and go down to the TAB to place a bet on the horses. By the end of the year we had won enough money to go out for dinner. I look back now and think $40.00 over a year would have bought a decent meal.


We had to pay morning tea money each term and took rosters to be the one who took the cash and go to the supermarket to buy all the biscuits.


Planning was more like a weekly timetable. Except for reading when we would list the stories read. Reporting to families happened twice a year and these were hand-written on school ordered commercial reports. I created a lined copy to help me write my own class ones neatly. No errors were allowed and any sign of correcting fluid would ensure a complete report rewrite.

I think it was only in reading that the children were grouped. I was one of the few teachers who carried out running records in the middle school. Maths and writing was taught whole class. Grouping in maths was just beginning. My children learnt their basic facts and spelling words every night.


The term overviews were my long term plan. I think I was the only one who created a term’s overview in the middle school. The other teachers said that it was because I was still such a young teacher. As for team planning, that did not happen until four years later. Remember all this was written down in a specially ruled way and placed into a planning folder. Later they published special teachers books for this very task. I remember using unlined paper backed by ruled like paper as a guide. Unfortunately I have only recently thrown all that old paper out. I would have been good to bring out and do a comparison for today.


Other memories include using the brand new school photocopier. We had a limited number of pages we could photocopy. I wrote out all my song charts and poetry charts by hand. I used an overhead projector to hand make all my big books. I had to mix my paints and dye. I was allowed a limited supply of crayons. I was allowed limited supplies of art paper.  Most work was done on the chalkboard so I was always covered in chalk dust. To make pretty titles I would soak the chalk overnight in water. Once they had dried I used these ‘special’ chalk to make titles and borders.

I did not have a computer until 4 years later when we won one. Everything I made, I made by hand.


I have all my class photos. But this class was my first. They helped shape me and helped build my confidence. I remember when I had to correct a child’s behaviour I would be in tears. I loved teaching in St Josephs and loved the Catholic system. Most of my time of thirty years has been in a state integrated school. It has only been the last 7 years that I moved across to the state system.


Over time I have noticed a decline in children’s handwriting skills, scissor cutting skills, and independence. I have noticed an increase in empathy and creative thinking. But that might be because we have a different focus in education. I could also be reminiscing on what it was like back then.


So what about you? Have you been teaching as long as me or even longer. What memories can you share about your first class? What were you doing 30 years ago? Were you even born? If this is your first year, then write about it because later on it does get hazy.

One thought on “30 years ago

  1. I had my projector license too. I was very proud of it and loved organising the films from the National Library for our Junior School Friday movies in the hall. My first year teaching was 1988. We had a photocopy machine but were not supposed to use it and had to use the Banda machine instead. Children loved the smell of that ink!

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