The WHAT'S NEW! page contains the latest medical updates. If you're wondering how I'm going as far as health is concerned, this is the place to start. Latest: Wed 27 Nov 2013. 7.20AM

Saturday, July 13, 2013

A student teacher's thoughts in 1965

My daughter, a teacher of children in disadvantaged circumstances, has been visiting. She left for Melbourne by the morning train. 

   It's always a sad time for me when my daughters leave, each time more poignant than the last. Those who know my story will understand why, as will those who are or have been in similar circumstances.

   This isn't about goodbyes, about which I have written before and I won't come back to here, but it's related to Sylvia's visit this time. 

   I was a trainee teacher in 1964 and 1965. Tracey gave Sylvia my old teaching prac diaries to look at. I'd kept them but never opened them since graduating. Notes of lessons mostly, with supervisors' comments, but she found what's below as well. I had reached the ripe old age of 17 when I compiled it. The language was very much that of the times. Note, for example, No. 8.

   For ease of reading, I have transcribed them below the image.

Points on Encouraging Enthusiasm

1. Teacher should be a sound organiser.

2. Must take care and use foresight in preparation.

3. The tasks must be carefully graded.

4. Difficulties at one stage should be overcome before others occur.

5. One process at a time must be taught.

6. Short problems are often just as provoking as long ones.

7. Correction should be prompt and careful.

8. The weaknesses of dull children should be investigated, and action taken.

9. The efforts of bright children should receive recognition.

10. Each process should be presented in a variety of ways.

11. Frequent time tests and team races.

12. Work of special merit should be commended.


  1. Yes Denis, all good sense and quite remarkable for a 17-year-old. No. 8 is fully recognised, and I agree with your comments on No. 9 and No. 12. My concern is that in society today we tend to support the disadvantaged or backward (8), without recognising the fortunate and gifted (9 and 12). Surely the aim should be to help each individual to achieve the best of which he or she is capable ... and that 'best' is not the same for each of us.

    I was shocked, when beginning my Master's degree at a Sydney university some 20 years ago, to hear - at the introductory lecture - our professor set out his personal objectives thus:

    "I want every student in this class to get their degree. I am not looking for stars, or people who shine at the expense of others. I want you to work together to ensure that you all obtain your degrees as a group."

    As a consequence - and deliberate policy - we received 'generic' gradings ... that is a 'pass' mark for all (nobody failed but nobody was recognised for outstanding work).

    This was, no doubt, very commendable and politically correct, but did it create enthusiasm to excel? Do we really want an homogenised society with no failures and no achievers?

    We have room for individuals to excel - whether as academics, business tycoons, doctors or mechanics. As a balance, there is also an opportunity to fail. Certainly we should help the 'dull' children to achieve their potential but not, surely, by holding back the gifted, who may also have so much to offer the world.

    Your youthful guide should be in every teacher's tool kit.

    1. Hi Bob. I was saying really that kids at both ends of the spectrum need due consideration so they can reach their potential but not be turned into something they're not. I've seen kids at university who shouldn't be there and are being set up for failure at something they can't do when they may well have other skills that they'd shine at.

      On the other end, smart kids need to be given opportunities to stretch their horizons as well. So I want it all for everyone, but I know as well as you do that it's not always like that.

      I was amused at the language we used, as you noticed. "Dull" hasn't been around since "All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy" I suspect!

  2. I was very touched when my aunt, a retired English teacher, gave my daughter, who was studying to be a teacher at the time, her own father's text book on the art of teaching written in the 1880s. It is amazing how apposite most of the advice still is. Anne P.

    1. The fundamental advice will always apply, Anne. Good teaching is a bit like parenting. Lead them to discover in a way they think they've found it themselves. University students aren't all that much different.

      That would be a fascinating textbook even in an era when the stress was on the didactic.

  3. It appears to this old parent-of-adult-children, grandparent, and ex-teacher, that children are not being given the vital experience of learning resilience through experiencing and risking failure. Everything a child does is "brilliant" and applauded. The long-term consequences of the gushing over students' slap-dash, insincere, careless work, whether in kindergarten or at university level is surely worthy of a research topic for a PhD?


Some iPads simply refuse to post responses. I have no idea why, but be aware of this.
Word verification has been enabled because of an avalanche of spam. SAVE or compose a long comment elsewhere before posting; don’t lose it! View in Preview mode first before trying to post.

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.