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Great Teachers


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After a couple of wines, I just told my wife about a couple of great English teachers that I had. Now I'm sharing it with you while I still remember. Unfortunately I don't remember either of their names.


The first was at Wagga Wagga High School in 1965. He was to retire that year. He ignored the syllabus and made us learn poems by Banjo Patterson and Henry Lawson. I can still recite them. We also read prose by Lawson, like The Loaded Dog. I have loved the poems ever since. My mother was taught by John O'Brien (Father Hartigan) at Narrandera, so she encouraged the interest. Unfortunately the class got up a petition to complain that we were not being taught the syllabus and being young and impressionable I signed it. I think the teacher got into trouble.


The second was at Broken Hill High School in 1967. He got us all to put in two dollars and we formed a committee to buy interesting paperbacks that were not in the syllabus. They were generally $1.99 each I think. This created a lending library and I got my first chance to read exciting novels. I remember Brown on Resolution (C.S.Forrester), and The Word by Irving Wallace. I think I read nearly all of the books.


I would be a different person without those two influences.

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Some great places - Deni, Narrandera and Wagga Wagga... Nothing to do with teaching, but all up there on the retirement locality for me...


My grade 3 teacher at East Kew Primary - Mr. Stanley - was fantastic - he got us all (boys and girls) interested in electronics. Sadly, at the end of the year, my parents split up and I was never to return to that school.


My next school was a dump, but my grade 6 teacher, Mr. Parker, although relatively young and inexperienced was always encouraging us to do better (most of the other teachers baby-sat). In my first year at high school, I was still struggling with the adjustments that had to be made and became very disruptive and a right pain the posterior.. However, Claire Kelly, a socialist leftie, was a calming influence and saw I was having emotional issues rather than just being a pratty brat. She got me into aviation by suggesting I join the Air League, which was a haven for me.. We were lucky as out "squadron" was led by Ricky Yousef who was a very personable young man and had the patience and warmth of a saint (not technically a teacher - but taught us a lot).


Claire was eventually instrumental in facilitating my move to my father's where he stuck me in a grammar school. Jack Leahy was the English teacher and I will never forget my first lesson... He started reading I can jump puddles by Alan Marshall which was inspiring - and jack Leahy always managed to inspire. He would discuss far more than the syllabus - all sorts of life issues.. treated us all like grown ups. I was still having adjustment issues, which seemed to sort themselves out towards the end of the year thanks to him.


Frank McMahon was a senior English teacher who was also a natural teacher - He realised I didn't care too much for novels, but of course I would have failed HSC if I didn't read them.. so would relate real world events and people to the characters and taught me that as much can be learned from a good novel as a text book...


Great memories of truly wonderful people.

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Jerry has inspired me to add a note about Dick Mead, who taught agriculture at Wagga High. He also led the Cadets and was a master at the boy's hostel. He encouraged us to build control line models and took extra time with us on cadet matters back at the hostel. He taught me to drive a tractor and fire a Bren. And after I was bitten by a monkey (don't ask) he drove me to the hospital each week for my tetanus shots in his hot FJ.

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Unfortunately, I cannot recall any great teacher that ever made any impact on my life. I think I've had better untrained "educators" outside the school system.


My first couple of years in school were good, we had an assortment of young, pretty female teachers that we thought were just lovely, and we seemed to be allowed plenty of leeway.

It was fortunate my mother taught me to read and write before I went to school, so the first couple of years were a doddle to me, as the other kids struggled to learn what I already knew.

Then we had the elderly headmasters wife, a big imposing woman. She was O.K., I don't recall any disagreeability with her. But her husband was a totally different kettle of fish.


A 5 foot runt who suffered from Asthma permanently, and who had been in the military, and who believed corporal punishment fitted the bill for any perceived transgression.

He was a bitter twisted aXXXhole who would be jailed for child abuse in todays world. He beat us all senseless, I can hardly remember a day in primary school, where he (or his equally twisted deputy, a bloke over 6 foot) didn't give us the cane.


You got caned for talking in class, caned for passing notes in class, caned failing to do homework, caned for even the slightest misbehaviour. He really was a vicious tyrant.

When I left primary school, we moved and I went to a different State High School to the one I was supposed to go to. I started again with no friends and many of the kids came from tough neighbourhoods.

We had massive classes due to rapid population growth leading to overcrowding of the education system. My high school had over 1600 kids, and classes were often 52 to 55 kids. It wasn't a conducive learning experience.


Add to that, we seemed to have the dregs of the Education Dept by way of teachers. A few female teachers who struggled to control hormone-driven young males, but who did their best.

A handful of male teachers who seemed to have no teaching skills at all. They knew their subjects, but failed in their manner of instruction.

They would fly through lessons, rapidly wipe the blackboard, and go onto the next part, without checking that everyone was up to speed. I think I'm slow to learn in many complex maths areas, and those teachers didn't help.


We had a few teachers who were WW2 veterans and at the end of their teaching life. Some of them had major problems relating to war service, which would have deemed them unfit for teaching today.

I left school in Year 11 at 16 years and 8 mths, without ever getting a matriculation. I left to join the brother in business and we did fairly well, considering our lack of education.

I would have liked to have had more business skills education, particularly relating to dealing with banks and finance institutions, which would have assisted us when our bank foreclosed on us with 48 hrs notice, for no good reason.


But life is the greatest teacher I've found, you never stop learning, and you never stop learning about the varieties of deviousness in human nature, and the incredibly nasty things that people will do to you, to get ahead themselves.

Edited by Guest
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Onetrack's story reminded me of another teacher at Deni High, the headmaster, who was a tall, baldheaded man named Bert, referred to by the pupils as Bertie Barrentop. He was, in fact, the co-author of the NSW Education Department's mathematics text book at the time. He was another teacher fond of the cane.There were classrooms on either side of the headmaster's office, and often you could hear the swish of the cane as some miscreant was punished for his deeds. I only received one swipe of the "cuts" as they were referred to. Our woodwork teacher (can't remember his name), whom we all thought was gay even before that was a thing, had summoned the HM because there was too much noise in the woodwork room. Every boy in the class got one stroke of the cane. Story had it that the woodwork teacher was having it off with the agriculture teacher.


Deni High was built on the old showground/football oval, so it had a full sized oval with gravel track around it, grandstand, and cricket pitch in the middle. The woodwork teacher had a caravan at the caravan park, and one year at the seniors breakup party, some kids pinched it and put it on the cricket pitch. They also took the small Howard tractor from the agriculture area and somehow got it onto the porch outside the HM's office. Ahh, those were the days.

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Out of interest, I took a trip via Google Maps and Streetview. I left there at the end of 1959, and went back once in the mid sixties. I checked out the school. As one would expect, it has changed quite a bit. The wooden buildings replaced with brick, the grandstand replaced with two storey classrooms, the oval still discernible from the overhead view although the gravel track has gone, but the cricket pitch is still there. Also checked out the old home, which looks in pretty good nick.

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I had some atrocious teachers in primary school many of them I think were not quite psychologically healthy. One teacher who sticks in my mind was a woman who would jab you in the shoulder with the pointy end of a pen, this was in grade 2 I think. There were also some older male teachers who were not quite right. The younger teachers were usually better.


I went to an extremely progressive high school. It was operated along the lines of a university. Even from the first year there it involved lectures, tutorials and much unscheduled time where in theory you went to whatever area you need to catch up on. It was referred to as IPT which stood for individual progression time but we use to call it inter personal time (hang out with friends. It was all very casual and informal. Recently I made contact with my favourite teacher. This science teacher taught me to love learning. It was fascinating to chat with him about how the school worked from the teachers perspective. He told us that it was the best school he worked at throughout his career and pointed out that the relaxed nature meant quite a high workload for the teachers. We also found it remarkable how young he was when he taught at this school being only a few years older than the oldest students.


He invited us to come and see the kit car/cars he had built. Even took us for a spin.

Totally nice and inspirational fellow.


My own son had the best teachers ever, we homeschooled him, true story





Ex science teacher and Mrs Octave, we went to the same school.




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