The Whole Class

From the Archives: Australian Story

I first saw the following video on a Facebook group that I belong to: Armidale Teachers College: The Class of 1961-1962

This was the year, 1963, that I started teaching primary school children in Granville, Western Sydney. The girls I taught were aged 8 and 9 and in 3rd and 4th classes. Some of my classmates at Armidale Teachers College chose to teach in small schools in the bush or even in outback places. The school children in the video below had to ride horseback part of the way, then catch a flying fox to get to their school.

1963: School children from a farm near Nowra had to catch a flying fox across the river, after leaving home on horseback.

My first education department posting was easy by comparison. After Teachers’ College I was posted to Granville Central School, teaching 3rd and 4th classes. I loved the girls I taught—it was parallel classes with high flyers and disadvantaged in together—but my first taste of work-based authority figures was a shock: ‘You’ll do what I say!’ Or some such from the woman in charge of first-year-out teachers, grey eyes steeling to add the final touch.

One of the other new teachers from Sydney ended up with a nervous breakdown. I decided to enjoy the pupils and to think of the future when I could escape from teaching for the Education Department. I tried to bring out the best in each pupil, building up confidence, not crushing it.

I must admit I loved teaching story writing, art and drama best. I even choreographed a play to the music of the Peer Gynt Suite: pretty mediocre stuff but fun. I took a day off to watch the cricket once with a pal from the Junior Secondary section of the school (I needed a break and so did he: his pupils were tough nuts to teach). You needed a break every now and again! It was probably part of my silent rebellion against the management.

Ironically, I got a shining Teaching Certificate report from the District Inspector (to the astonishment of guess who!) because the girls performed brilliantly for me—and it was a Maths class! I recently met up with some of these girls through a connection passed on to me from Daphne Ferguson, and they were still calling me ‘Miss Skyvington’!

3rd class at Granville Central School in 1963

My mother must have missed me when I left home for Armidale Teachers College in 1961. She used to run up on the Singer sewing machine lots of lovely dresses for me to wear to the regular dances at the College. Unlike my friends, I hadn’t met anyone I was intimate with, and my dresses were worn by my room-mates more than by me. Warren (Wazzah) found the following clip from a newsletter about the ‘scandolous’ front verandah at Smith House, with couples saying goodbye before doors closing time (11pm on Saturdays). I remember the gorgeous full-skirted dress in pale blue checks with the white fringes around the skirt. This time it was Marnie in it, saying a fond farewell to Mac, whom she married later on. It would take me a long time of growing up to find Mister Right! Honestly, it wasn’t me!