you can well imagine, my enrolment in 1A(ii) of the 1st
Year at The High School of Stirling in August, 1951 brought about
significant changes and additions to the network of people and
events in my life. From 1944 to this point my experiences had been
primarily parochial. For the next six years, at least during
school-term time, these became more urban than rural, although
summer holidays in particular offered me some international
networking experiences as well.
Primary school influences had not curtailed my social activities in
the village or elsewhere nearby, but going to secondary school
certainly changed all that. Its daily lesson demands, its activity
opportunities, its staff, and my peers became pivotal to my
academic, social and sporting development, and thus dominated, not
only my doings in weekday daylight hours and Saturday mornings, but
also, because of my hefty three-hour school homework schedule, my
Monday to Thursday evenings and Sunday afternoons as well.
relatively high IQ youngster, I was placed in one of a stream of
three classes whose in-mates tended to be labelled by their
undertaking of the study of two, rather than one foreign language.
Thus the examinable menu for me in a nine-period school day for the
first three years became, French, Latin, English, Mathematics,
Science, Technical Drawing and Woodwork, History, Geography and Art.
The non-examinable subjects were Physical Education, Music and
classes up until Year 4 were segregated by gender, so, because the
ninety plus pupils who had been deemed suitable for the two foreign
language stream comprised about sixty boys and thirty girls, the
boys from the Primary School section of the town High School were
put in 1A(i), while we the rural bright sparks formed 1A(ii), and
the girls, 1B. The one language streams were 1C, 1D, 1E and 1F, with
greater emphasis on Commercial or Technical or Domestic Science
subjects replacing the second language.
my enlarging puddle of peers within these streams were country
bumpkins like myself, and, the chosen discriminatory segregation
actually worked quite well. Extra-curricular sports activities
[which were not compulsory due to the high numbers of pupils who had
before and after school jobs to help family income] were avenues of
integration for all seven classes, and I, being a willing
participant, soon made friends and enemies in most of these other
classes the boys ones only of course!
words probably best describe these early schooling days in
August/September 1951 novelty and trauma. The experience of
changing teachers, subjects and classrooms every thirty-five minutes
or so was totally new to us all so accustomed as we had been to the
one teacher/one classroom life in our primary days. Thus the most
precious document one had for the first few weeks [until memorised]
was ones class timetable pasted in ones homework diary that
served, not only for noting the twice weekly collected-in
ink-exercises for the three language subjects, but also for the
more randomly set pencil or memory homework in the remaining
subjects. The trauma came from the increasing complexity and
volume of work arising from all ten of the examinable elements in
our wide curriculum.
Mathematics, I loved and had no bother with. The foreign languages,
I initially detested, despite the two able, but exceptionally
demanding teachers who tried to interest me in this area for three
years. Homework for them troubled me a lot . Not only the
difficulty, but also the fact that I did not want to let myself, my
parents or the teacher down . and I wanted good marks to continue
as a top dog in this wider environment. My French teacher Mr
George Sinclair was also my first rugby coach . and I worshipped
him no way would he get anything less than my best in any
ink-exercise. My Latin teacher Mr Jimmy Jumbo Murray had been a
teacher colleague and friend of my father so the pressure to
please him was also there . I sweated blood and spilled many a tear
in my bedroom study struggling to keep up to the mark but looking
back from the dizzy heights of later senior school days, it all
seemed well worth the early anguish endured!
The Dizzy Heights Senior School Prefects
to say, the quality that I found so valuable in my own later
teaching career, a sense of humour, was hard to find amongst those
who taught me in these junior school days. Life was supposed to be
hard. Life was earnest. We were working long-term to get enough
Higher Leaving Certificates in 5th Year to become
eligible for University. Formality, conformity, unquestioning
obedience and swotting were the rules of the game! Rote learning,
jug to mug teaching, learning theory and memorising theorems,
dates, facts, places, people that was schooling then. Problem
solving was merely then an add-on for the genius types among us.
This and practical applications, we were told, would come when we
moved on to senior school after three years of foundation studies.
No wonder our teachers found little to smile about! The curriculum
and approved methods must have bored them to tears to be repeated
year-in and year-out. So fun for us pupils had to come from baiting
the less able disciplinarians, or sniggering unseen and unheard at
the expository faux-pas of others.
Tiger Thomson, our history teacher, was not to be trifled with
red hair, hot temper but could have been an absorbing person to
listen to, had it not been for her unconscious and continual
interjection of the words actually and really. We used to run
book on the number of times these words would be used by her in a
thirty-five minute period three types of gamble were usually on
offer, each of the words and both the currency for bets being
collectors items - the small cards, sponsored by tobacco firms,
portraying famous footballers that many of us hoarded /exchanged.
various early teachers of English were competent, but rarely
inspiring. Of our Science teachers, one was over the hill; one a
martinet who had us copying down dictated experiments endlessly
after his demonstration without practical input by us; the last was
listless and only interested in senior school level science.
However, within all the limitations that convention and formal
methods imposed, one middle-aged spinster - a dedicated teacher who
travelled daily in the train from Perth to make us numerate, well
organised and biddable - the unique Miss Gaedecke, became a shining
star in my firmament. I sat at her feet for five years, and
eventually became one of her boys. She was built sparingly thin,
sounded very severe, but inside that fašade she had a heart of gold.
She cared for us all and we grew to know it and thus in due course
forgave her all the apparent austerity that her normal demeanour
displayed. She acted the part so graphically, as overheard by me as
a nipper, when described by a friend of my father thus, Lady
teachers soor faces, bashed cases, an a wee bunch o flooers!
However, at the end of each school year she was seldom short of
flowers from her aye a wee bit feart o her, but, adoring pupils.
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