Category Archives: She was a TEACHER?

Amusing classroom anecdotes

Calling NZ Primary Teachers

How deep in your memory can you dredge? Back to when you, yourself, were a pupil in a New Zealand classroom?

As far back as your junior years? Your middle school years? Your intermediate years? Your secondary school years?

Great – here’s what that means to me…

  • You are your own expert on your classroom experiences as a pupil/student!
  • You the best person to contribuute a piece of your memory to my nonfiction book in progress.
  • You will be given credit (and shared copyright) for your contribution.

Please write your memory in the first person, preferably in the “voice” of yourself at that age:

  • give me your name, the class you were in (Year 3, e.g.) your age at the time, and the year
  • change your name within the story
  • mention the school’s name, by all means.
  • change classmate’s names to something not recognisable to that person
  • show what happened to you, to the teacher, to the classmate
  • share the interactions between the people in your memory
  • include conversation where possible
  • write between five-hundred and eight-hundred words
  • (optional) write as if at that age–including spelling you know now was wrong, punctuation as you used it at the time

Send me the piece, attached to an email at this address:

  • McAennyl [at] outlook [dot] com
  • Set a Read Receipt so you are notified when I’ve read it; I will respond

In the email, tell me what you want done with your contribution if it is not included in the manuscript:

  • May I post it as a Guest Post on this blog?
  • Would you prefer it returned to you, unpublished?

Think about it…anything you blush now remembering, any ocassion in which you were the bully/perpetrator, any incident in which the class got out of hand (and what part did you take – heheh), the most engaging/exciting/fun lesson you took part in. the one thing you’ve always remembered about the classroom, the teacher, the building/s…whatever.

More than one contribution is welcome, especiallly if each covers a different class level or school.

2015-05-16 10.59.33

(Look at the lass with the class sign. She’s “zero”. Now count to your right 1 – 2 – 3. That’s me, back in the day, at Harley Street School, Masterton, Wairarapa; teacher was Mrs McBean)

Thanks for your interest, colleagues…






Make Mine a Time Machine!

 Oh, yessss…at last, knowing what I do now, I can get back to my   secondary school where two too many of the teaching nuns were — as we would have put it back then — totally bloody useless!
I’d not only take back with me knowledge enough to give the then younger me the confidence to take a complaint to Mother Superior, or to the parish council about the deficiencies of M’r C. and the younger M’r. C., but the basis for the charges — incompetency, memory deficiency, inability to present lessons to any plan, failing to cover the Biology curriculum, and mental instability.
If New Zealand’s Education Review Office would let a school review team travel back with me, they’d be able to find how sub-optimal was that college (Years 6 to 12, known as Secondary level in NZ) and give them one of the proverbial kicks up the back-side!

(You’ll learn more about the disastrous “education” {coughing fit} I experienced when my teaching & education book is released…)

Time And Relative Dimension In Space


 [Apologies–WordPress Post editor misbehaving for me today. Hence pic down here instead of at top of post.]

Response to Daily Prompt: Pick Your Gadget

Your local electronics store has just started selling time machines, anywhere doors, and invisibility helmets. You can only afford one. Which of these do you buy, and why?

Literary Studies … how (not) to …

Starter – a post which started a thread over at Scribophile…

  • D Gestalt   What novels have you studied? What do you mean by studied? How did you study them? Smile.   D

I read the replies, and found one with which I could empathise. The replies and the thread starter got me thinking.

I have actually Never “studied” any novels – at least, not Really studied any. Sure, at secondary school we were assigned novels to read, and sometimes (wow!) permitted to watch a black-n-white movie of a few of the novels. And we would be asked to write a “book report”.

And that was it. The only two novels I remember reading for class are Lord Of the Flies, Christmas Carol and Great Expectations – LOTF I never finished, and I only remember CC and GE from the movies.

No in-class discussion of character, plot, conflict, resolution – neither as generic terms for study nor within the context of a particular novel. We were on our own. And, as either the school never sent reports to parents or my parents never let me see any, i never had a clue whether what I was doing was what was wanted or not. We were left to our own devices.

And as serving behind the counter at the family dairy (corner drug-store to US readers) was much more enticing a way to spend an evening than study, literature study was the minimum – just read it. Or read it until I got bored. Then back to the dairy a.s.a.p.

Then, Teachers’ College, and one major was Victorian Children’s Literature. It was a study more of the physical environment of NZ’s Victorian settlers’ way of life than it was a literature study, but we were expected to read or have read many book s which the convent school had never put in front of us.

I faked it – admirably, in terms of results. Disgracefully in terms of ethics. In the on-campus book store I spotted a large green leather (yes, I said leather) bound and gold lettered tome – A Compendium of English Literature. Within its pages were all the “great” books ever studied in a school or university – complete with overall synopsis, and a chapter-by-chapter synopsis, defining the most significant character flaws or action or relationships, ad a quick summation of its comparison against other books by the same author. Oh yes, and also black ink sketches of the climactic scene.

All that year I never read a single novel for study. I simply read the Compendium brief, and used it for my contributions to in-class discussions.

My reading focus was the theory and how-to’s of Teaching – hell, that was why I was at teachers’ college – not for literature or Art, or Social Sciences at a tertiary level. I was there to learn how to Teach these. But the majors classes did nothing to teach us how to teach pupils (or students for those expecting to work at secondary or tertiary institutions.

I learned how to Teach in one class in my third (final) year. The lecturer pretty much turned the course curriculum over to us student teachers, and we spent whole sessions discussing what we’d seen work well or badly while observing “real” teachers or had experienced while on practice. I also learned something of the most importance – I wanted to teach Children, not only subjects, and I learned that by honing the skill of observing children – at play, in class, interacting with each other or with a teacher; I learned to read body language, expressions, and cultural behaviour in our multi-cultured nation.

Literary study – I learned how by teaching it. Distributing a class set of novels, and reading them aloud in serial to the class, so poor readers never got left behind. Augmenting the novel with background facts from history, or poems or short stories on the same topic or theme, or portions of books by the same writer, and asking them questions they could answer without having to struggle with out-dated Victorian language.

I kept a store of Classic Comics in the classrooms, and would hug myself in delight when a lad who’d just ‘read’ the comic would look for the novel on the school library shelves.

When the NZ curriculum changed for all subjects, I was in a school where I taught Years 7 & 8, so I’d have pupils in Year 8 who I’d taught in Year 7. So every two years we would recycle a particular set of novels to study. One year’s theme was Children in Hardship, and it included (among others) House of Sixty Fathers, The Silver Sword, and a pupil’s own choice from a carton of on-loan hard-times related books from NZ’s national Library School Service

The following year’s theme was based on a curriculum requirement for students (Students? At age eleven to twelve, these are pupils, not students!) to examine how a story can be related via more than one channel of communication. My novel was The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. I found and bought, at $2-oo each, a book about Oz, the movie and Lyman Frank Baum’s other Oz books. I had a vcr of the 50th Anniversary of the movie Wizard of Oz, with Angela Lansbury as narrator, and I had the School Services of the National Library send me a carton with as many books about LF BAUM or of his Oz world books as they could pull off their shelves. Most times, the carton would be complemented with books about other fantasy worlds, or on other themes but which had also been made as a movie.

I would tease the class with Lansbury’s documentary, then they would have to read the novel (the reading age made reading it to them unnecessary) and discussing chapter by chapter. Then They would be given access to the carton of National Library books (they’d fight for a BAUM book) and the non-fictional $2 books.

Only when we had looked at every source would I reward them with the movie – which would be stop-started every time a pupil spotted a difference between the movie and the book, Questions would fly – Why aren’t her shoes diamond? Why isn’t Munchkin land blue? And the answers would always come from another pupils who’d read and studied that very matter.

My favourite point of discussion would be the Wicked Witch of the West, as played by Margaret Hamilton vs the original actress choice. It was a good teaching moment to point out how important it is, when writing a story, to make sure you create a “really good baddie” – one who makes you dive under the couch to hide.

I am smug in saying , as this class was the Junior department of a full secondary school, English teachers of the upper classes would always be able to tell me how well my pupils were at literary studies.

And so, by teaching literary study, I learned how to study literature. But it still hasn’t changed my taste in reading material. Victorian literature is still a “walk past quick” section of the library or book store.

Oh, That Could’ve Been Harsh (Daily Post)

Daily Prompt: Sad, but True

“Tell us about the harshest, most difficult to hear — but accurate — criticism you’ve ever received. Does it still apply?”

1970, and as a second-year teachers’ college student I’m on a week’s ‘section’ (a practical practice trial of teaching for real) at a local school, in a class of eleven-year olds.
I’d had a mildly wild first year – “wild” because as a kid from a small country town, on realizing no-one in the city knew my mum I could do what I liked, and I got high on the freedom to speak my mind; “mildly wild” because I didn’t get into drugs of any kind. In fact I’d rubbish those who did – quite loudly.

Anyway, back to that section. My goal was to plan, prep and teach a science lesson, while class teacher took notes, assessing my abilities (if any). My lesson was Geology – how rocks were formed. The Igneous, Sedimentary and Metamorphic, with a set of samples provided by the school and augmented by a collection of mine of semi-precious gem stones. Chunks of obsidian,  scoria and pumice; Crystals – rose quartz, amethyst, peridot and opal. The class were quite a high level of interest, as for a change there were enough samples of every type of rock that every child got to examine and describe more than one.

Unbeknown to me, back at TTC, someone had complained to my lead lecturer about my big mouth insulting idiots in class, and correcting lecturers in mid-lecture when they gave faulty information.

Section over, I had to go see the HOD Science, who apparently was my mentor for the year (though nobody had told me that!), about the success/failure of the science lesson. She commented favourably (IK & NZ English spelling) on the high level of student interest and enjoyment, the high level I’d insisted on in their descriptive writing “as a scientist”, my ability to gain full class participation. Then she told me of my poor planning (gather the samples, and talk to the class. No Goals, Aims  or Objectives, or Ratings Scale for assessing individual learning. Tut, tut.

I made some remark (as I was wont) how “a good teacher shouldn’t need to push paper; their job is to interact on an individual basis with each pupil according to their needs”

“But shouldn’t their needs be recorded/” she asked

“A good teacher should be observing every pupil’s behaviour and conversations, social interaction and working ability, and remembering them.”


An agreeable silence, but … a long silence. Then,

“You are readily vocal with your opinions.” A statement of her opinion, and true.

“Yes, i won’t take rubbish from anyone who is supposed to know what they’re talking about.”

“Do you know,” she said (was that a slight smile at the corners of her mouth?). “you’re like me, when I was your age. One day someone said to me something that applies equally to you,”

“Yes?” I asked, “what was that?”

“My professor said of me ‘One thing she does badly is suffer fools gladly’  You need to keep that in mind as you continue through your career. Oh, by the way, your section assignment –  I’ve graded it as an A-. Off you go – I’m sure your cronies will be waiting to share a cigarette or two with you.” and I was dismissed.

Her advice, that little jingle which had applied to her and now me, was intended as a criticism.

Such is the arrogance of youth, I took it as a compliment!

Does it still apply? Damn straight! I can be as critical as hell if faced with academics who teach subjects not students, with bureaucrats who make rules but don’t live with them, with young adults who whine “no one told us” or “I didn’t know”, after years of instruction at school re drug & alcohol abuse.

Just one little quote (and there are many just as succinct)…

“Those who will not reason, are bigots; those who cannot, are fools; and those who dare not, are slaves.” – – – Lord Byron

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