Weekly reflection: Old school ties

The shame that is nostalgia... (Photo by author's father)

New Zealand Graduating Teacher Standard 3. a:

“Graduating teachers have an understanding of the complex influences that personal, social, and cultural factors may have on teachers and learners.”

Officially I spent Friday night planning for my upcoming weeks of teaching. Unofficially I (along with 2 billion others) tuned in to watch William and Kate say I do. But aside from gasping at the pretty dresses, what does this have to do with education?

The minute the first hymn piped up, I travelled back in time to my own primary school.

Guide me, O thou great Redeemer. We sung this hymn at school. Most of us mumbled, or at the very least had little idea of what it was we were actually singing about. But twenty (!) something years on, the years were immediately erased upon hearing it. Likewise, apparently the lyrics of Jerusalem are now on my brain after singing it regularly through weekly school church services.

Now chances are you can guess that by the religious overtones and dorky uniform, I did not attend a state primary school but a private one. But the royal wedding did make me pause and reflect on how context influences education.

As a child I had no idea why I was singing songs about not sleeping until Jerusalem was built in England’s green and pleasant land, it was just something we did when we went to church service. Now to its credit, my school was open to the idea about the possibility of there being more than one faith. We went off to a Jewish school and synagogue to learn about Judaism and a mosque to learn about Islam, something that put the school ahead of its time.

However there was one rather large elephant in the closet, the country outside of the school walls wasn’t England. Nevertheless I studied French rather than Te Reo Maori and as a child I could tell you the names of the Kings and Queens of England but wouldn’t be able to name the Prime Ministers of New Zealand (even since World War II) until I went to university.  I was probably the last gasp of New Zealand school children who learned more about England than  about New Zealand thanks in small part to the Maori renaissance.

What is knowledge and who gets to decide?

If you are part of a dominant societal group, chances are you haven’t given that question much thought. The people you study at school probably look like you, the names are easily recognizable (not to mention pronounceable) and the works we study are undoubtedly familiar. However if you happen to be part of another group the education system seems a little more foreign and at times irrelevant. That is until you happen to be watching a royal wedding…

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4 thoughts on “Weekly reflection: Old school ties

  1. Your post rang such a chord with me! I had much the same experiences as you – in ChCh – that most ‘English’ of cities.
    My family were early settlers and it was all about England – everything linked back to the ‘home’ country. Funny that. I’d always thought that my ‘home’ was NZ. (Not a good idea to question this thinking in a very English school in the 1980s!)

    I must admit that I still love Jerusalem and sang along with it on Friday. 🙂

    It would be fantastic to think that, as a country, we are changing, but I still can’t help thinking that it depends on where you live in NZ just how far that change has moved. Still room to grow methinks.

    Fantastic post.

    Like

    • Thanks for dropping by Justine and for your wonderful comment. I think it means that we’ve got to be wary that our lived experience may be very different from the lived experience of our students…

      Like

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