Relatively speaking - A family that followed in Father's teaching footsteps

13th August 2010 at 01:00
When it comes to educational dynasties, the Coyles take some beating. Joe and Anne Coyle and their three daughters are all at the chalkface

JOE COYLE, 61, retired last year as principal teacher of modern languages, St Ninian's High in Kirkintilloch, East Dunbartonshire

My father came to Scotland in 1943 from Ireland under the farm labourers' scheme because all the British men were away at war. It was my mother who appreciated the value of education. I didn't realise that we were poor - everyone was poor around us. We lived up a close in Glasgow.

I went to the University of Glasgow to do French and Italian and then on to teacher training. My mum was dying of cancer when I did my finals - she saw me graduate but not become a teacher.

Because of her death, I missed part of my first term of teacher training, so I had to do a longer teaching practice in my second term. It was at St Mungo's Academy in Glasgow, which was going comprehensive (Frank Pignatelli, who became Strathclyde director of education, was my mentor).

I got my first job there. It still had a lot of "academic" classes and was tremendous from the point of view of experience - I had an A-level class, two Higher classes and taught from third year up to sixth year. In these days, you weren't supposed to have any noise in your classroom. Discipline was all.

I took a transfer to St Gregory's in Cranhill for a year, to try a school in the east end. I nearly left teaching. I wished I had been teaching PE - it would have been easier to motivate the kids. There were some great kids and real hard workers, but many would rather have been doing something other than sitting in a French class.

Then I got a job as an assistant principal teacher at Our Lady's High in Cumbernauld. No interview, just an application form. I was never particularly ambitious but I wanted to run my own department and this was the logical step. It was a good mixed-ability school. The children were well-motivated, although there were some difficult classes.

In 1978 I got a job as PT modern languages at St Ninian's High in Kirkintilloch. My daughters were pupils there - Claire and her pals would come to my classroom, but Patricia and Geraldine didn't like to be seen talking to me in the corridor. In fact, Patricia gave herself a false name in the first year, so people wouldn't know we were related.

St Ninian's was a School of Ambition. We did a lot of work on ICT and international education and there was a big role for languages. I've done about 29 school exchanges and trips over the years. I always took the S1 and S2 classes, because it motivates them.

I retired last year after 31 years there. I didn't want to, but I was 60 and had been working since I was nine years old, doing a milk round.

For me, the most important thing has always been the relationship with the youngsters. It's a privilege to teach young people - I just enjoyed going into school every day.

ANNE COYLE, principal teacher, John Paul II Primary, North Lanarkshire

My background is much the same as Joe's. My parents were Irish and I was brought up in Swindon. I didn't stay on at school for A-levels - instead, I went to Swindon College to do business studies.

I met Joe on holiday in Ireland - at a dance. It was a long-distance relationship. When he came back from France, we got married in 1974 and I moved to Glasgow and worked with Devro in Moodiesburn as a purchase accounts supervisor.

I gave up my job when I became pregnant - I felt my role was to be at home with my family. When Geraldine was two, I started to be a childminder. When she was due to start school, I felt I should get back to my own career but didn't want to go back to office work. I was told I'd need to do an access course to get into nursery or teacher training. Then I realised I had to have Higher English, so I went to night school.

My first teaching job was at Christ the King Primary in Holytown. When my headteacher, Marion Dinardo, moved to St Columba's near Bellshill, a PT post came up and I got the job. When the school merged with St Gabriel's to become John Paul II Primary, I became PT infants (P1-3). I really like young children - they come in as babies and change so quickly.

John Paul was one of the pilot schools in North Lanarkshire's literacy programme, so we get other authorities coming to see how we manage literacy.

Coming into teaching later (at 42) meant I had more experience of life, and having my own children helped me understand children better or pick up signs of distress more quickly.

Since last August I've worked part-time because of Joe's retirement. I'm 56 now and I'll probably continue until I'm 60.

PATRICIA SHOVLIN, 31, modern languages teacher, Douglas Academy, East Dunbartonshire

I graduated in 2001 in French and Russian and was very much influenced by my dad. When we were young, he used to bring us along to "French cafes" in the evening at school and we would have foreign language assistants staying in the house or coming round for dinner. He would do French vocabulary tests with us on long journeys.

I went to St Ninian's High - Dad's school - but he never taught me. His colleague, Mary McIntyre, built up the love I had for languages.

When I went to university, I didn't want to go into teaching. My best friend was studying French and Spanish and she went into university with a view to becoming a teacher. For our year abroad, she went to an inner-city Parisian school and I went to St Petersburg. I got a job teaching to fund my travel - and loved it. Ironically, she came back saying no way was she ever going to be a teacher.

I did my probationary year at Clydebank High, which was great. Unfortunately, there wasn't a job there, so I applied for one at Douglas Academy - and I've been there ever since.

I'm on a one-woman mission to bring back Russian as an examinable subject - I have a lunchtime club at school for S1-2.

When I was doing my probation year, I had a group of 10 S4 boys doing French as a beginners' course. I asked Dad what to do. He said I should ask them what they were interested in - so we landed up going to the local garage and did lots of vocabulary about cars. It was a good wee tip.

CLAIRE MCKENNA, 28, English teacher, St Ninian's High, Kirkintilloch

I work in the same school as Dad did. Teaching's not something I always wanted to do. When I went to university, I really enjoyed studying English. I worked as a PA for a couple of years, but seeing how happy Mum and Dad and my sister were, and the satisfaction they got from their jobs, I thought I'd try it.

I did my student placement and probation at St Ninian's. I was a pupil there and now I'm a teacher. It's a great school. It's been lovely working with my dad - he's been there for so many years and is so experienced.

When I was a pupil I was always happy to talk to him in the corridor and my friends and I would go to his room and eat our lunch.

We've never worked together directly but there have been some inter- disciplinary projects between our departments.

I think my generation of teachers has the same concerns about Curriculum for Excellence as my dad's - the principles are great but, in practice, only time will tell.

GERALDINE COYLE, 24, post-probationer, Holy Cross Primary, Croy, North Lanarkshire

When you tell people your dad was a teacher in the school you attended, they think it's strange. But it was good having him there. I was never in his class but I could go and talk to him. You had to watch yourself even more, because of the risk of embarrassing him.

I did a degree in psychology and my postgraduate teacher training at Glasgow. I knew I would go into teaching, but my very long-term vision includes possibly doing educational psychology. I'm really interested in special needs and have just spent three weeks working as a play-scheme worker at Campsie View School in Lenzie - for children with severe difficulties. I love teaching and don't want to move. I'm just desperate for a permanent job.

Sitting in the staffroom and hearing other people talking about their jobs - the stresses and strains - you're just desperate for a permanent contract. It's very difficult not having any security, having to say your goodbyes over and over again - you just want to get to the stage where you can say: "See you in August."

Dad and my sisters laugh at Mum and me, saying we're holding "another primary school meeting".

I'm going to be teaching P2 next year when I start my year's contract at Holy Cross. That's where I did my probation - and then I had a contract for a year at St Patrick's Primary in Kilsyth, where I taught P3. I just loved teaching the middle stage, so going into P2 will be quite tough.

As told to Elizabeth Buie.

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