The League for the Exchange of Commonwealth Teachers has, over the years, seen thousands of teachers from the British Commonwealth of Nations spending entire school years in each other's countries, effectively swapping jobs and living in each other's houses. The cross-cultural benefits have surely been enormous.
Back in 1962, an exchange teacher came to my village primary school in the heart of The East Riding of Yorkshire. She had travelled all the way from New Zealand and her name was Miss Sanderson. She was quite tall with dark wavy hair and of course she spoke English in an unfamiliar manner. Her complexion was a little dark, suggesting that she might have had some Maori blood in her. She brought a ukulele with her. Singing was one of her strengths.
Every week she led an afternoon of singing in which she introduced us to new songs and patiently taught us how to sing them with the delightful accompaniment of her little guitar. It was always a very happy session for Miss Sanderson clearly loved her songs and certainly realised that music was not all about learning musical notation and passing music exams. It was first and foremost a happy, social phenomenon and her lovely songs had the capacity to illustrate what it might mean to be human.
This morning I found myself singing "Riding Down From Bangor" as I came down our staircase. It was one of the songs that Miss Sanderson taught me and my classmates almost sixty years ago. At the time I imagined that Bangor was a place in New Zealand but the Bangor in question was in fact in the state of Maine in America. I remember she also taught us a famous New Zealand love song called "Pokarekare Ana". It included some exotic Maori lyrics:-
Fast forward to the spring of 1989. Frances was just six months old so Ian would have been five. I had the idea of applying for a teacher exchange to Australia. Shirley was happy to go along with this. It seemed like the best time to do it with the kids being young. Maybe later it would not work out.
I filled in the application form, gathered the necessary support documents and even took photos of our house for would-be Australian exchangees. I never imagined that my headteacher would prevent the process from happening. He had never had to deal with such a request before and apparently could not imagine the possible benefits. So he blocked it. I was dumbfounded.
Two years after this the school agreed an exchange for another English subject teacher and the following year two Science teachers exchanged with Australian colleagues. But for me the ship had left the port and as a family, for personal and professional reasons, the time was never right again to be part of such a scheme. I still feel some of the hurt. Who knows - we might have remained in Australia riding red kangaroos into the sunset singing another of Miss Sanderson's favourite songs - "Waltzing Matilda" which she sang rather slowly like a lament.
My favourite living writer Maurice Gee is a New Zealander: You will enjoy his novel Going West. Before the millennium I had lunch with Maurice and his wife in London.ReplyDelete
The two ladies in the video were a pleasure to listen to, though I can't imagine Waltzing Matilda as a ballad.
I liked the way Matilda opened the movie On The Beach (YouTube) first the brass then the strings.
If you'd stayed in Oz I wouldnae be reading the blog. Ye made the right move Squire.
Thanks for the reading recommendation. I am reading a book about the island of St Kilda at present.Delete
You could have called your blog "Dinkum Aussie Pav".ReplyDelete
Pav?..."a dessert consisting of a meringue base or shell topped or filled with whipped cream and fruit; a pavlova." What the?Delete
That would have been such an adventure of learning and growth; I'm sad that you were deprived of it. A colleague of mine spent a year as an exchange teacher in Australia and loved it. His children were older, and I'm not sure they did.ReplyDelete
Soon after the blockage we bought a better house and I was appointed Head of English. The opportunity was effectively lost.Delete
It's so sad that you still feel the hurt. How narrow minded your head teacher was - or was he actually jealous that you'd be prepared to take up such a challenge? To relocate your family and gain new experiences? Australia would have welcomed you both with open arms, and perhaps your headteacher realised that. I think you would have enjoyed living there. These days it's such a vibrant country.ReplyDelete
When I was at school we had an exchange Geography teacher from Capetown, South Africa - a Miss Gutwenger. It was interesting to be taught by her, but much more interesting to hear about the country when our Geography teacher returned. It was in the days of aparthied - a subject that, as children, we'd known nothing about. What an eye opener our teacher's experiences proved to be.
How wonderful that your regular teacher was able to convey a picture of how South Africa was in those days. And how wonderful that you have remembered it.Delete
Riding red 🦘 into the sunset. What excellent imagery YP. I remember Waltzing Matilda growing up when my dad played his Seekers records.ReplyDelete
My favourite Seekers number was "A World of Our Own".Delete
What a shame that you missed out on such an experience. Once in a lifetime I would think. P's parents emigrated to Australia in the early 1960s but they all became homesick after a while and returned to England in 1979. There's no place like home!ReplyDelete
Did you ever travel to Australia with P JayCee?Delete
Yes, we have been a few times. It is a great place to visit but we are still happy to return home.Delete
Hey, there's another topic for a blogpost!Delete
An interesting example of What If. Would Frances still have met her husband if you had gone to Australia, and would little Phoebe have been born as your granddaughter?ReplyDelete
I hope Miss Sanderson saw her time in Yorkshire as a good experience, something to remember with fondness for the rest of her life.
Sadly she is surely long gone now - or well into her nineties. I would have liked to tell her that I still remember her with fondness.Delete
That does seem like an opportunity missed.ReplyDelete
Missed or more likely denied.Delete
Yorkshire vs Australia - no contest in my view and it's not down South that I'd be heading. That said, a two year exchange might have been fun.ReplyDelete
Yorkshire Vs Australia? We only needed Geoff Boycott and Fred Trueman to beat 'em.Delete
There are always the 'what ifs'. But your 'what is' seems very nice from where I sit. Except for Clint. What if you got a more cheerful car?!!!ReplyDelete
I just told Clint what you said. His engine grumbled and he emitted a noxious cloud from his tailpipe with a loud burping sound.Delete
*Nervously wrings hands* Are you sure it was a burp???Delete
You never know. Had you have come you may never have left. It happens. Waltzing Matilda is a very versatile song in how it can be sung.ReplyDelete
I might have met you in a bar in Melbourne and got into a fight.Delete
Yes, exchange as many teachers as possible there is much to learn in so many ways. Soak up a little culture! Sing! Listen to a different accent! there are many little things to pick up and then You see some different things about teaching.ReplyDelete
In this response you have captured some of the disappointment I felt.Delete
In a way you have been acting like an exchange teacher through your blog. Your daily travels and musings enlighten your followers about a world that is foreign to us and yet we also see what is universal.. the human experience of working for a living and the ups and downs of raising and loving a family. You haven't really retired, you're still teaching.ReplyDelete
Thanks for linking our unofficial national anthem, there's not a Kiwi alive who isn't touched by that song. It's wonderful how music transcends all the pettiness and prejudice of this world.
Maori in the 1960s was disrespected and in danger of dying out as a spoken language. Cultural groups were trotted out to entertain visitors from overseas but children could be strapped for speaking the language at school. 50 years on and we are at last maturing towards a more equal society. Kapa Haka groups flourish in schools and Maori is recognised as our official second language interchangeable with English.
The many beautiful Waiata are proudly sung around the world and our anthem is always sung Maori first.
Check out the wonderful a cappella rendition of Pokarekare ana by Front Row Chorus from Aorere College 2012. These 1st XV and 1st X111 boys sing it like the soldiers setting off for Europe in 1915.
My daughter's oldest friend since babyhood has a beautiful singing voice and recorded herself singing this as a lullaby for Charlotte!
I've just completed my first day of grandmothering now that the daddy has returned to work. Not nearly as hard as being the mother.
What a lovely comment Adele. As a grandmother I hope you have your silver hair tied up in a bun and gold wire spectacles on your nose, a floral apron and wrinkly stockings. That is what a grandmother is meant to look like. Also you should practise saying, "It wasn't like this in my day" over and over again. If you see Miss Sanderson please tell her that I remember her fondly - NeilDelete
You probably won't think so but there will be lots of your former pupils saying the same thing about you. I abandoned teaching after only a couple of years back in the 70s as I suffered from imposter syndrome and self doubt.I was stunned to meet a former pupil years later who told me how much I was missed. I think it was because I had a sense of humour and actually liked children. So many teachers back then didn't seem to have either.Delete
Sometimes I would look around staff rooms and staff meetings and think - What a miserable bunch! Joy was often absent and I am not talking about the Art teacher!Delete
I have never heard of such a thing but wish it was more prevalent. If we were all more familiar with other cultures, we probably would be more accepting of other cultures.ReplyDelete
You got it Ed. That was very much [part of the organisation's philosophy.Delete
How infuriating that must have been at the time! Some people are so short-sighted, and unfortunately they often seem to be management. Did anyone stay in touch with Miss Sanderson? I wonder where she is now?ReplyDelete
One of the most famous residents of Bangor (Maine) is author Stephen King. In fact he's the only resident I could name!
Stephen King is a great man. Recently I caught him being interviewed by Steven Sackur for BBC "Hard Talk". Too many Steves!Delete
As for lovely Mis Sanderson, if she is alive she will be in her nineties now. I hope she had a happy life. The singing will have helped her along.
When things like that happened to me I used to say "Well, whatever is, is best." I still wonder sometimes if I really believed that. It certainly helped me survive some of the crap though.ReplyDelete
Soon after the disappointment we moved to a better house and I became The Head of English. It was too late then.Delete
I remember singing that song at school as well, for some reason I always thought Bangor was in India, even though it says 'after weeks of hunting in the woods of Maine' - I think it was the village maiden reference. We often wondered what it would be like to emigrate but after hubby's career in the RAF we were too old. At least we have one son living in Canada so can visit there whenever we like.ReplyDelete
Except during a deadly pandemic of course Jo! Glad you also remember that song.Delete
Riding down from Bangor on the eastern train,
After weeks of hunting in the woods of Maine,
Quite extensive whiskers, beard. moustache as well,
Sat a student fellow, tall and slim and swell...