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Life Is Too Short To Drink Bad Wine: 23 - An Eye For An Eye

“Then it came time to take a lesson with the whole class. It was to be a Nature Study lesson about earthworms. I was to pour some Condi’s Crystals liquid onto the grass behind the infant block. This would irritate the worms which would rise to the surface to be observed and collected by the pupils. I was horrified by the thought of this but dutifully arranged my lesson and mixed the dreaded liquid….’’ Gayle Woodward takes her first tentative, though successful, steps as a teacher.

Professional Practice lectures were my introduction to the note-taking skills needed at tertiary level. It was all new; new terminology and new psychological theories to learn. I found it strange to be getting up early each weekday morning to catch the workers’ bus to the city and then to transfer to another bus to take me closer to the Mt Eden campus. One felt very mature.

We were sent on an observation visit to the local Mt Eden Normal School and I was entranced with the way the teacher had the attention of the whole class. It was very motivating. We learnt to do Reading Skills tests with groups of real children, on a one-to-one basis. I thought this would be a wonderful career.

For the first year of training I decided that my selected studies of speciality would be English and Music. What else could I do? For sure, I could do nothing in the Art, Physical Education, or Scientific areas. The English classes were interesting as we studied and discussed some very adult texts and read through plays in class. I discovered a talent for speaking in character, and could mimic accents and speak with passion.

In Music, we had to learn to play the recorder in order to be able to teach it and to find some other instrument that we could learn to use for music in schools. We experimented with Indian sitars, glockenspiels, guitars and drums and had to make music of a kind in groups. I purchased an accordion-type wind instrument, and used my knowledge of music notation and of the recorder to play this. I liked the Music Appreciation better, especially when we followed the musical scores of the great composers. I got an ‘A’ for an essay on the score of Tchaikovsky’s “Romeo and Juliet”, by identifying each part of the score and analysing what the composer was trying to impart in his music.

Later in that first year I had a practicum or ‘section’ to St Heliers Primary School. I had asked for a position in the Junior Classes and was sent to a Primer Three class with a most capable, kind and inspiring young woman teacher. I observed for the first week, making notes on her classroom decoration and design, on her planning notes and the way she got the children’s attention and disciplined her little class. It was determined that I would start my teacher training by taking a group of six for Reading Aloud on the mat. I had to devise some lessons which would reinforce the words or phonic sounds we were trying to teach from that particular book.
I got much help from this Associate Teacher and practical advice and encouragement from the notes she made on my efforts. Even so, I spent a couple of hours each night making resources and writing up what I had learnt or observed.

Then it came time to take a lesson with the whole class. It was to be a Nature Study lesson about earthworms. I was to pour some Condi’s Crystals liquid onto the grass behind the infant block. This would irritate the worms which would rise to the surface to be observed and collected by the pupils. I was horrified by the thought of this but dutifully arranged my lesson and mixed the dreaded liquid. It worked perfectly and I suspect not even my associate teacher knew that I was repulsed and felt quite nauseous as small hands placed worm upon worm into the jars. We were to make a worm farm in a glass aquarium so the children could see the worms at work. However, my lesson was done and the teacher took over from then on. My next lessons were Printing, which was very formalised and Spelling and I continued to work with various levels of groups for reading.

I received good reviews from the Teachers College lecturer who came to view my first tentative efforts and I felt very encouraged. Another section followed in the Standards at Mt Eden Normal School – a kind of training school for budding teachers, which was staffed by the best and most inspiring teachers available. I was in awe of the staff and made copious notes on classroom management and motivation techniques, the use of groups, the kind of instruments available in the Music area, the display on the nature table.

I had a lesson to prepare in Arithmetic. Whole class participation, then work with one maths group during the lesson while the rest of the class worked through specific practice pages in their textbooks. I was extremely nervous about the Arithmetic lesson but the Teachers Version of the textbook I found to have a suitable lesson included and I followed that. These dutiful children, so used to having a ‘student’ teaching them, took part eagerly in my questioning and everybody seemed to understand. Bless them! The lecturer who was observing me noted, “Gayle has a quiet and assuredly confident teaching style”. I was so proud.

I was persuaded by my old friend Marian, who was studying to qualify as a School Dental Nurse, to join her in a business house Netball Team. These were club games which one could play after one left school. Games were held on Saturday afternoons at the Windmill Road courts in Mt Eden. Netball was the new name for Basketball, the name of which was now reserved for the mainly men’s sport of American Basketball. I enjoyed the sport and we had some hard games. I normally played defence and was most often in the opposition goal circle as Goal Keeper.

One memorably shocking afternoon, I jumped to place my outstretched arm in front of the face of a Goalie as she lined up a shot at goal. I should have been at least 3 feet away from her but my jump came down too close and my hand struck her face. One of my fingers gouged her eye socket and her eye was dislodged from its place. She went down as if shot and I was paralysed with fear and terror. St John staff helped the eyeball back into place and put a bandage over her eye. They tried to reassure me that no permanent damage had been done but I was seriously traumatised and could not get the picture of that eyeball out of my head. I refused to play any more for that team. I thought it very likely that she would come looking for me to extract some payback. ‘An eye for an eye’!

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