Gone fishin' in memory lane

12th October 2007 at 01:00
MY LAST column touched on schools in the 1970s and got me reminiscing. Like most of you, I have experienced the hypnotic trance of the "I love the 1970s" clip shows on late-night television. I, too, have experienced the same dirty feeling when I realise I have just sat through two hours of Jamie Theakston deconstructing the Baader-Meinhof Gang's anarchist and libertarian ideals and assorted nano-celebrities watching clips of children's TV.

You may have a school colleague who remembers teaching in the 1970s. They are probably dozing quietly in the staffroom but if you wake them they will happily regale you with tales of a time when there was freedom to design a curriculum around a child's aptitudes, when learning and personal development were the only goals in education and when you could hit a child who was really annoying - so long as his dad wasn't the type who was likely to come around and kick your head in.

I do think we could learn a lot from the 1970s. One of my teachers (who I believe is still in the profession) had a fantastic activity based around making wooden fish. He got every child to draw a template on to a block of wood and cut out a rough fish shape. Then he would give them each a round file and let them smooth down the edges for the next ten lessons. When he taught me, I think he used to pick his horse racing tips to the steady drone of 30 contented children and their filing.

I like to think that he still does this activity, although nowadays he probably has to spend the time he has created for himself "focusing on intervention groups" and such like.

I'm sure there is a generation with wooden fish still in a drawer somewhere. For me that lesson was the inspiration for a career.

Yes, the 1970s made me who I am today, even if it isn't until you become an adult that you realise the value of your educational experiences.

As you grow older, you begin to realise the importance of fostering an independent, questioning attitude to life, developing skills in mathematical investigation and being put over the knee and smacked by a stern, middle-aged woman. Were there any downsides?

In these health and safety conscious days you need to fill in at least three risk assessment forms before getting out a set of coloured crayons for your class.

I remember feeling homesick on my school camp and being driven home by my teacher and her boyfriend in his MG as he demonstrated handbrake turns on the winding country lanes. I don't recall anyone wearing seat belts and I'm pretty sure they were both smoking (those funny gold and black Russian cigarettes she was an arty teacher).

Now I think about it, there were a lot fewer children in my class by the time I got to Year 6. The teachers said they had moved schools, but I'm not so sure ...

More from Henry in a fortnight

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