Hello Junior M,
Starting school in 1960
I don’t know how olden this seems to you but I first started school in 1960 so that’s over 50 years ago. My Kindergarten (Prep) class had around 35 children in it.
When we arrived at school, the teacher checked to see if we had a handkerchief and had clean hands. We were expected to wear our uniforms with a tie if a boy. Girls wore school dresses. They were not allowed to wear long pants even in winter but they could wear stockings to keep their legs warm.
In class, we had pencils to use in our books. Only older children were able to use ink pens. Each recess break, all children in the school were given a free bottle of milk to drink. That might sound good but the bottles weren’t kept in fridges so would be sour if the day was hot. We were still expected to drink them.
Our school bags were Globite suitcases. We weren’t allowed soft bags because our books might be damaged. We would keep our books, pencils, maybe a school jumper and our lunches in them. If we had a note from our parents, we were allowed to walk home to have lunch then return.
Even in Kindergarten, a teacher might hit a child’s hand with a ruler if they were doing something wrong or were using the wrong hand to write. Older children could be caned with a long thin bamboo cane.
I use to watch my brother in the primary school section of the school. Each morning the boys would line up in their classes and the girls in theirs. Boys and girls were kept in separate classes. At the end of assemblies, a drummer boy would beat the drum as the children were suppose to march back to class (they really weren’t very good at marching). Boys were in the top classes and girls were in the lower classes. One of the worst punishments for a boy was to be sent to spend some time in a girls’ class.
When I started in the primary section of the school in 1963, the primary section had changed. Girls and boys were placed in the same classrooms. My brother was in Year 6 and wasn’t happy when girls were placed in his class. I was made ink well monitor for my Year 3 class. It was my job each day to make sure each inkwell in the desks had ink for our pens. We would dip in the points of our pens, wipe off the excess ink and start writing. Later that year I lost that job because for the first time children were able to use ballpoint pens.
Starting out as a teacher
In the 1970s, I started life as a primary school teacher. It wasn’t until 1981 I was placed in a full time school job. I was sent out to western NSW as a Teacher in Charge of an isolated school. My school was 100km from the nearest town and 20 km from the house next door where I lived. (The picture shows that school and comes from a video tape recording I made back then.)
Each day I would drive along the flat road to school. I would have to watch out for red kangaroos, emus or sheep on the roads. Sometimes I might stop to pull a sheep out of mud if it was stuck in a dam. On arriving at school, I sometimes had to chase emus out of the school playground.
We were pretty lucky in the classroom. We had an air conditioner, fridge and water cooler. We also had a colour TV but could only pick up the ABC TV if the weather was just right. There were no DVDs or CDs back then but we did have a videotape machine that could play large one hour tapes we could borrow. The tapes were called UMatic and aren’t like the tapes your parents would remember.
Even the phone was different. I had to pick it up and listen to hear if anyone was already on the line. If no one else was using the phone I would replace the handset, wind a handle, speak to an operator in town and ask to be connected to the number I wanted.
We were one of the first primary schools in NSW to have a computer although we had to share it with five other schools so we only had it for about 6 or 7 weeks in a year. I immediately set about writing some programmes for the old Apple II computer as there wasn’t much software that came with it. Luckily I had used computers in university since 1975 so I knew about them.
How isolated were we? In the two years I was in that school, only one bus ever passed by. We only usually had about one truck pass us per term and one car per week. We weren’t on a main road to anywhere.
Where did the children come from? They were from surrounding sheep and cattle stations. The numbers varied depending on work for their parents but ranged from 12 to 20, including one high school girl doing correspondence at one stage. All the children were in the one room and the school had only one teacher.
Did I ever use a cane on a child? In those early days, a teacher could smack a naughty child or hit them with a cane or ruler. If we did use the cane, we had to write an entry in the discipline book and show how many hits we made and why they were given. I NEVER CANED A CHILD or hit them with rulers. Very early on I decided it was wrong to hit children. Now, of course, hitting with canes is illegal.
Did we play sport against other schools? We worked with five other small one and two teacher schools. We would take turns to host the others schools on sports days. One school was on the far side of our six school area. For they to visit us or we them, it was a 200km journey one way on mostly dirt roads so a sports day there could mean about 400km in a car.
Did we go on excursions? Each year our six schools would go on the one excursion. Every child from Kindergarten to Year 6 would go with their teachers and some parents for a one week trip. In 1981 we travelled all the way to Newcastle in NSW so the children could experience the seaside. The journey was about 700km one way so by the time we were back we had travelled around 1500km. Our 1982 trip was to Bathurst to learn about gold mining and see the Queen as she came to town.
In 1982 I bought my own personal home video camera. It was large, had a heavy recorder you wore with a shoulder strap on your shoulder and a cable attached to the camera. In those days cameras were so rare I would be asked what television station I was from.
On the 1982 school excursion I mentioned, we were on the streets waiting to see the Queen pass. A policeman saw me with the camera and thought I was from the local TV station so he let me through the barriers. I filmed the Queen passing and could have reached out to touch her I was so close. (You can see a picture from that 1982 video.) That would never happen these days.
After leaving this school, I was sent to a school in Sydney. Video tape recorders had arrived at schools and I introduced computers to my new school. In 1988 I moved to another Sydney school. During my time there I introduced computers, digital video cameras, digital photo cameras, email, a computer network, computer animation and the internet.
By my final school, it would look much like your own. I have seen so much change in schools.
What do you all think school will be like in 50 years?