Monday, December 12, 2011

Private Schools - Are they worth it?

If education is about quality, one could be forgiven for thinking that if you pay more for your education, it will be better quality. Sometimes that is true, but ultimately it is up to the teacher to inspire the students to aspire to do well. Plenty of people have paid for expensive educations for their children and it has all been for nought.
My education was at two private boarding schools which I loathed and destested. In fact girls boarding schools are noted for their bitchiness and mine particularly so. I have only one person I would think worth contacting in my graduating class and she was an indigenous girl from Birdsville. I had brilliant teachers, I loved my art teacher Mrs Stent, my English Teacher - a doughty old Scotswoman called Mrs Mac Donald or Mrs Mack and we had the two Lowe sisters for Geography and History in years 7 to 9. Mrs McClelland was our Science teacher and I cannot remember the name of the Maths teacher. I was the bane of her life for two years in PGC in 9 and 10 then I dropped Maths - much to her relief I would suggest. We had a lovely french teacher whose name I also have forgotten over time. French was a good muck around subject but we did learn a bit, but not seriously. It was not my passion like Hebrew was and still is.  In my senior years there was Dolly Dahms for Modern History. He was balding with a habit of scratching the top of his head with one fingertip when deep into the causes of World War 1 and the Versailles agreement or german inflation and the rise of Hitler's Germany. The other subject Ancient History I loved but I had a rather revolting teacher who took an instant dislike to me. He was a defrocked minister of some church and for some reason he hated me on sight. Stubby threw me out of class, so I went to study in the art room and topped the year even though a girl called Linda Cheung got the Senior History Prize in Ancient for the year. The Senior Examiners disagreed with Stubby's assessment of my ability and intellect, thus I scored far higher on the independent external exams.
I remember putting myself in the B senior English class purely because I was in the throes of a puppy love for a pimple faced leader of the Scots College marching band. I deliberately fudged my English marks ( we do do silly things when young and thinking we are in love) and argued with my English Teacher who was the Principal of PGC at the time that I deserved to be in the B class. I was apart from being in love, bored with her classes where she read us poetry and her voice droned on and on and on. Lovely lady, but totally boring as a teacher. McKinlay who took the B class on the other hand was a rude, sarcastic, pompous bastard, but by G-D he was a wonderful teacher in that he involved you in the class if you could understand him. We did Evelyn Waugh's The Loved One and I thoroughly enjoyed the text but many in the B class hated it. Then there was Spencer who took Geography which bored me in Year 11 so I dropped it at the end of the year leaving me only five subjects for my Senior year. I probably should have done Maths.
What was wrong with the boarding school for me was precisely this. I was a financially challenged grazier's daughter. We had impoverished family circumstances and I did not have the wardrobe or spending power of well over half my class mates. Thus I was considered persona non gratia. I was invisible. Probably why I sought attention for my personality among class mates and did comic routines - we all need to socialise. I was looked down apon by most of my classmates, because I was not with it and for them I was frankly just dumb because I did not have money and could not talk about holidays in Mexico or France or going to Europe after I finished my senior year.
The interesting thing was though, that sometimes I was useful. Like when a very wealthy businessman's daughter Virginia who had been kicked out of several schools took me along with her while she did a bit of 'five finger discounting' in the Warwick stores. She took me along and was wanting me to store her 'purchases' in my cupboard. I refused. A week or two later she was caught and tried to say that I was involved and had done it for her as I was giving her gifts. I learnt to be very wary of such 'friends'. I was a rogue and a scallywag who was attention seeking, but I was not a thief.
What is my point in this ramble, apart from keeping my hand in writing? Well, unless you want a religious education for your child and for them to be given a set of values, you might as well send your child to a public school. I do want a religious education and Hebrew for my son, so hopefully he will be in a religious school again by High School. High Schools are in Victoria good schools in the main part. A high school is only as good as the principal that runs it. That goes for any school.
I am a hack teacher. I know my stuff and I do what I have to do to get the kids to improve and learn, but I am mediocre. I am not brilliant and would never make a principal, definitely NOT and nor would I want to be one. I would have no time for my writing. I would never make a team leader or head teacher because I lack the ambition to do so. I survive mainly by doing what I have to do and being a little creative in the doing. I love teaching but I know that I will never be brilliant as a teacher. I agree with the workcover psychiatrist's report even though it was only a three hour once off consultation when he said I had a Severe Borderline Personality Disorder  Axis II. There were quite a few mistakes in that report but I guess we can't all be perfect, even psychiatrists have their off days. It even had things that had never happened in my life in it which was a bit odd. I can remember that they said I had received 'meals from staff at Narrandera High School when I came home from Wagga Wagga after having my son in 2003. I know one woman bought me around a bag of greasy chips and a loaf of sliced white bread. She told me it was a 'chip butty' I was disgusted but tried not to show my disgust, and she sat at the table while I breast fed my week old son and as soon as she was out the door, into the bin they went. I used the excuse that I was drinking tea and it did not mix so as not to offend her. She also did not know me very well. I NEVER eat white sliced loaf bread. It is either home made, organic wholemeal or spelt bread.
Apparently there were according to what was written in this report, dead silences when I walked into the staff common room. I did not go there because sitting among people who are engaged in ripping down people who are not present is not my cup of tea either. I prefer the positive.
Anyway all I can hope to do is to gain my full registration and to continue to work teaching.  Next week I am going to have to apply for a housing commission house and hope my son is finished schooling before I need to go into it. I know of one woman also a single mother who went into housing commission flats when her sons were , 9 years old, 12 years old and 14 respectively. The 12 year old got onto drugs and tried to commit suicide twice by the age of 15. The 9 year old who is now 16 lives with his father and the 15 year old who is now 22 is a very troubled young man. That sort of environment I do not need for my son. No matter how good the school, it is the home environment that often controls the success or not of a student in school.  Students with a strong and healthy home life, they will do well. Students who have crap in their lives, whether the mother and father are multi millionaires and their children go to the top private schools or Mum and Dad do ice for breakfast and the kids go without most basics and drag themselves to the local high school - these kids cannot do well if they do not have some sort of support in their lives through a teacher, the school or family.
Basically I am afraid for my son at times. When he curls up in a forlorn heap on the bed because he does miss having a father, I know I have to try extra hard for him and put my needs aside always. Mum comes second to kids. Kids cannot look after themselves but adults can. Workwise I have to do what I can for both of us to keep a roof over our head. I have to deal with the horridness of my family towards me and I suspect now that if I don't get my full teaching registration, I will have to find a way to get him an education and the sorts of things in his life to ensure his success. Deniliquin and Narrandera set us back so much because what affected me with the bullying also affected him.
I do not know what will become of us as I am no longer thirty or even forty but approaching sixty in three years time.
I do not know what will happen to us and do I think any of my work colleagues would care? No why should they? If I can't hack the pace and do a proper job then I will have to get out and get on the dole because if I am useless and I will let the side down. A team is only as good as the members on it and if I am not doing a good job then I do not deserve that job and that is fair as fair goes.
That is what life is about. It may be better for my son to stay with a religious family who can give him what I cannot give him if I do not have a job. There is no point in making him suffer because of me. He is a beautiful kid and why should he be hurt because he has a terrible mother.

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