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Life Is Too Short To Drink Bad Wine: 26 - The Inspection

Gayle Woodward is awarded her teaching certificate and is appointed to a school.

In the winter, Mary and I persuaded our parents to let us go for a weekend to Ruapehu to the snow with Woody and Mary’s boyfriend. I think we were both astounded that permission was given, especially as Mary was only sixteen.

We were to stay in a motel at National Park and go to the mountain daily. On the Saturday we arrived at the Lower Car park on Ruapehu to find the road up the mountain was closed to vehicles. After playing around in the snow for a while, somebody decided that we should attempt to walk up the road to the Top of the Bruce where food and warm drinks would be available.

We set off eagerly. It was hard walking, cold and very steep but the views got better the higher we climbed and as the restaurant came into view we stepped up our efforts. I had not eaten much that day and the exhaustion and the height and thin air we encountered worked against me. I blacked out. I was dizzy and faint. Apparently I was ‘as white as a sheet’, and the others, especially Woody, were worried. They helped me the short walk to the food and I did indeed feel better once I had eaten. I was still light headed until we descended lower down the mountain. I had absolute faith in Woody to keep me safe and thought that as long he was there, nothing could hurt me.

In the final term of the school year, an inspector from the Teachers College came to view me at work with my class. He spent the normally quiet morning going through my records and planning and the children who were rather daunted by this very large man in our classroom, as was I, were biddable and obedient. However, the afternoon was a different story. A Social Studies Centre of Interest was underway in the classroom and it involved art and craft work. The problem group was in its element. They could mess around with paint, shout to each other, annoy others and generally cause a ruckus. I began to reprimand quietly as I had trained myself to do. It had no effect. I began to talk louder and louder to reach the majority who were working well. I knew it was not going to reflect well on my ability to manage but I did not know how to stop the “Shanes’ in my class in their tracks. I thought that sending them outside would solve the problem but did not want to do this in front of the inspector, whom I so wanted to impress.

I was so relieved when he thanked me and gathered up his notes and left. I was shaken but continued through to three o’clock and home time. When I had tidied the classroom, I visited the staffroom toilet and found my period had started. While sitting on the toilet seat furnishing a pad out of toilet paper to get me home, I heard, outside, the Inspector and the Headmaster talking as they walked to his car. They were talking about me and would never have expected that I could hear what they were saying. The inspector was saying that he thought I had real problems managing my class but it would come with experience.

The Headmaster explained that, ‘she has a mother who is a marvellous Brownie Leader and she tries to aspire to those leadership skills but they don’t work in a classroom’. I was shocked and tears streamed down my face. Never had I felt so embarrassed and betrayed. I could not face him with my feelings because I should never have been privy to their conversation but I was certain that I never tried to emulate my mother; only to try to teach the way I had so admired in other teachers. It was unfair that the inspector had seen a bad afternoon, probably a pre-menstrual one, when so many of them were successful.

However I received an official letter from the Education Board, saying that I had qualified and would soon find in the post my Trained Teacher’s Certificate. I was also informed that I would be required to do my Country Service in the next two years to work off my bond. This requirement was to staff the country schools which were legendary - difficult to find teachers for because of isolation and also the fact that the country classes were multi levelled- one would have to teach any level and maybe all of five to twelve year olds. I was horrified.

The Headmaster told me that if I could make a case of why it would be impossible for me to move to a country location I may be able to be excused. Not all first year teachers were directed to the country for their second year. No one else I had trained with had been selected. I was just unlucky. With Mum and Dad, it was decided that we would make a case that Mum was not well and with Dad travelling around the country a lot, I would be needed at home to be with her. She was often sick and close to a breakdown but I was probably one of the causes of this and not who she would want looking after her, but it worked.

Another letter arrived, stating that I had been appointed to Churchill Park School as an Assistant Teacher and I was to work off my Bond at that school. It was in Glendowie so was indeed close to home. I made contact with the Headmaster at the new school and was further shocked to find that I was to teach a Standard Three and Four combined class. All my preparations thus far had been to teach Primers and I was worried as to how to cope.


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