My classroom in the 1970s #Nostalgia



My first year of teaching started in September 1972.  I was given a class of 41 seven year olds in an old lofty Victorian school.  The walls were tiled and the windows started above my head, so bright colourful displays were essential.  After a year’s postgraduate “training” in teaching 8 to 12 year olds I felt very unprepared for this mixed ability group.  With no classroom assistant or any other help, it was quite difficult to hear the children reading regularly.  There was a large blackboard and an enormous box of coloured chalk, the remains of which I have to this day!  From time to time I wheeled in a tall TV on wheels to Watch BBC Schools “Merry-Go-Round,” making sure my timing was accurate since we had to watch it live.  On Teaching Practice I managed to jam the Banda machine (Spirit Duplicator) so that an engineer had to be called, so I was cautious now, but I loved to use different colour masters to make interesting worksheets and the smell reminded me of pickled cockroaches.


Next term, half of the school moved to a new building a mile away, taking the Library with them so I started a Library for the 7 to 9 year olds in a small extra room we had.  I had the fun of handwriting tickets for each book and pockets for each child and it was a peaceful place to go at lunch time and read with some of the children.    Every Monday morning was a nightmare collecting in the dinner money and adding it up before Assembly.  I organised my first class day out in the summer term.  We went to Chessington Zoo which I suppose was vaguely educational, but there were no Risk Assessments in those days; we just took lots of Mums with us.  One day after break I realised one little boy had disappeared.  I sent a message to the secretary, who discovered he’d walked home thinking it was lunchtime.


At 4.30 the cleaning lady (the caretaker’s wife) came into the classroom and told me to go home.  She said she couldn’t have me cluttering up the room and they wanted to lock up by 5 pm.  During my probationary year a County Inspector came occasionally to watch a lesson.  On the first occasion he said, “I don’t expect you bother teaching them their tables these days, no-one does.”  My reply was, “Well we do in this school!”  There was no proper syllabus, Maths followed the textbook, History followed the Unstead books so I taught Cavemen to Normans and we had some lovely Nature books with beautiful pictures for “Science”.  Music was “Singing Together” with the radio.  I asked if I could introduce French, which added variety, but if I wanted to spend all day talking to the children about Birds, I could. 




The children believed that the Deputy headmaster had a Slipper in his office which he would use on naughty boys.  I’m pretty sure he never did.  One of my colleagues had a guinea pig in her classroom and one day, while I was teaching her class, I realised that it had died.  I managed to talk a lot and distract the children until playtime.  Later I had fish but they lasted for ever.  I loved the Nature Table where we would have conkers, Autumn leaves, tadpoles in a tank, fungi including the excitement of the Shaggy Inkcap.  Happy days!

Comments

  1. And I completely forgot to mention the beautiful jar of marbles on my desk, confiscated fro naughty children.

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  2. My childhood school classroom for my infant years was in a Victorian building,(in Heckfield) with a great big furnace heater in the centre, where they warmed the milk in winter, just one teacher and a helper in the afternoons only. Sadly it closed down, but not until I'd left. Years later my own children went to another village school(in Dogmersfield) which had kept its Victorian classroom, although it had a modern extension. Lovely to read this Liz, brought back lots of memories.

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    1. I was also a pupil in a Victorian classroom in Weymouth which is now the site of an appartment block. Strangely while driving along a road last Saturday I saw a siign to Dogmersfield. i remarked to my husband what an unusual name it was!

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    2. A lovely coincidence Liz, it is a tiny village with a famous claim that the Princess Catherine of Aragon met her betrothed the Prince Arthur at the village stately home.

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    3. I really must visit this intriguing village!

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  3. Great post, Liz, bringing back lots of memories - some good, some less so. I remember the hoirrors of the school milk, which was left beside the radiator in the corridor. By break time it was lukewarm and soemtimes, banana flavoured which was one the most disgusting things I ever had to drink.

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  4. Lovely post, Liz. Oh, the freedom of those pre-National Curriculum days. Thanks for the reminder about the Banda machine - never did get the hang of it. Then again, I used to get paper stuck in photocopiers too. :)

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    1. Oh the hours spent in later years becoming acquainted with the inner recesses of a photocopier.

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    2. I only entered the profession age 46..it was very different. I loved making my own syllabusus on teaching practice...but found I couldn't use any initiative, as everything had to be taught a certain way...and above Year 10, the only thing that mattered was passing exams. From my tutorial students I gather it is even worse: the pressure to achieve is stifling any creativity and freedom just to 'relax'. ALL my students see a councillor, or are on various therapies. Age 17!! What monster has been released in our education system and what awful havoc is it wreaking!

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    3. That's why I was relieved to retire, because those halcyon days had passed. The only subject I still enjoyed teaching was History. As it isn't a SATS subject it doesn't matter in primary schools so you are left to teach it as you wish.

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  5. I love this post - what a great recollection. It must have been so difficult to know where to pitch your lessons having so many children and no syllabus. Our caretaker and cleaning lady were married at our school too!

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