The January sales are done. “Back to School” ads are up. Holidays are nearly over and the beginning of the school year looms. The book and stationery list comes out. Action is required from someone –probably mum. Uniforms, shoes and sports gear are needed. Maybe a visit to the school second-hand uniform place. The costs mount and, for a student going to a new school, they are multiplied.
In 1872, the Victorian Education Act decreed education to be free, secular and compulsory. The latter two are fine – but free? Schools levy charges for various needs, and there will be school camps and excursions to be paid for later on. All of the above will enrich the school experience and are important, but the first encounter between the child and a primary teacher forms a basis on which education begins. It is priceless.
So spare a thought for the primary teacher at this time. There will be lessons to prepare. Another class, names to learn, new kids to welcome and energy to harness. Lunch times and recess supervision, opportunities to get closer in a school yard chat or game. Responsibility for safety is always there.
In earlier days, it was chalk and talk. Now the teacher must be media-literate. The classroom teacher is the GP of the profession. The term loco parentis (Latin for ‘in the place of a parent’) is truer than ever.
For me, happy memories of past teachers still linger. The teacher who, on every late afternoon, sat us on a piece of carpet and made stories come alive. She had no family, but each grade was hers.
Old ‘Pop’ in the grey dust coat, who insisted on correct spelling and memorising tables. He would open up the Grade 6 Reader for us and introduce snippets of poetry and little extracts from wonderful writers. Our Grade 6 Reader was a special possession and we would look forward to the next reader, right up to Grade 8.
But I shall always be grateful to the teacher who gave me, though it may seem hard at times, ‘stickability’. To give it a go. A life skill which works for me.
A teacher gets to know each child personally during the year. By written reports and parent/teacher interviews, he or she is able to provide honest, helpful and encouraging assessments of a child’s progress, both academic and social. There is a partnership between home and school.
The best report I ever read is written in Luke 2:40 of The Great Teacher: “And the child grew and became strong. He was filled with wisdom, and the grace of God was upon him.”
A large part of the child’s early development as a whole person rests with a very special primary teacher. The sticker on the rear window of a family car reads: “Thank God for a Primary Teacher”.
And we should.
Bill Pugh is a retired Uniting Church minister and a former schoolteacher.
Image by Ilmicrofono Oggiono via Flickr.