I posted this meme on my Facebook page the other day. I have been surprised by the responses. When I posted it it was done tongue in cheek. Growing up in the 1950-60’s I was educated at a private school. I attended an all-girls school. Saint Columba’s College. Buckley Street, Essendon.
In my day 1950s-1960s, it catered for grades prep to matriculation. The administration staff was made up of nuns reporting to Reverend Superior. The greater percentage of the teaching staff were nuns supported by female lay teachers; we even had males on staff, Mr. John Ryan, the tennis coach, and Joe the odd job man.
It has become fashionable to bag the Nuns and Brothers who dedicated their lives to teaching. Undoubtedly some of them should not have been teachers let loose on young souls. But, I have friends who experienced the same issues with teachers male and female in the state school system.
My husband who grew up in the state school system was taught by a woman who was a kleptomaniac, another who used to take their books and throw them out the window, and one whose method of teaching was to have the children transcribe their textbooks into their writing books. One of his teachers was removed for, “undue influence” on the boys in the class. Peculiar classroom behaviour was not the sole province of the religious education staff.
The statement is true – you don’t scare me because I was educated by the Nuns. But not in the way many people think. Some people of influence, Germaine Greer for example, have painted the most horrific portrait of education in the non-secular system. While the system was not perfect I would remind those people they would not be who they are today without the education those people and the system provided.
I must have been lucky I had run-ins with teachers, who didn’t? It was not restricted to the Nun’s it included the lay teachers. And one was an absolute nut case, these isolated incidences aside, from age 4 to age 16 I was provided with a system of values.
I was taught respect, for self and others, and respect for authority. I was taught to think about the less fortunate and how to help others and given a well-rounded education. I was taught to be myself, think for myself and not be afraid of having an opinion as long as I could validate it. I was taught to be modest and compassionate.
I was taught not to dumb things down and how to use a dictionary and a thesaurus. I was exposed to a world of wonder, worlds which included learning Latin and history and the romance of poetry and language. Art and drama sat side by side with physics and applied maths. I was encouraged to stretch my mind and test my capacity for learning and work outside the box. to reach for the stars.
I learnt I was the equal of any male student and could do whatever I wanted in life if I had a good education. It was drummed into me “manners maketh the person” and this did not prohibit me from being an independent thinker. I was encouraged to love learning and I guess this is what drove me back to complete my Bachelor’s degree at 67 and to undertake a Masters of Professional Practice.
I was shown that you have to work hard to achieve in life and even if you do work hard that there will be times you will not achieve the results you want; because there are people who are brighter or more determined than you are. I learned what failure was because from failure comes the will to strive to do better. I learned to start at the bottom and work my way up and not to expect to always be a winner and there are times when life simply isn’t fair. Your options are to stand and fight or suck it up and move on. You were taught to pick your battles and learned quickly about pyrrhic victories and their cost.
I had blackboard dusters thrown at me for being an obnoxious smart mouth and got cracked over the knuckles a few times for being rude and disrespectful. Yes, I learned the art of sarcasm and was terrified of being sent to the head nun’s office – primarily because I was afraid of not living up to the high standard they set – of being a disappointment. These women taught classes of 30+ children and commanded respect. Sometimes they made my life miserable, but I thank them every day because they made me who I am today.
Among the graduates from my Alma Mater are world famous entertainers, journalists, news anchorwomen, politicians, sportswomen, academics and artists and writers, doctors, lawyers. Not a bad bag for a group of oppressed Catholic school girls.
Our school motto was Fidelis et Fortis – faithful and strong.
These were the women who formed my personality and taught me to be proud to be of who I was and what I achieved. Sister Joseph Therese, Sister Theresa, Mother Mildred, Sister Isobel, Sister Burkman. Mrs. Kelly, Mrs. Sheedy, Mrs. MacNamara, Mrs. Anderson, Miss Williams, Miss Wilkinson, Sister Gabriel, Sister Felicia, Miss Magnanini, Sister Aloysius. Miss Nicholson, Mrs. Pitney.
On a personal note I am no longer a practicing Catholic and have not been one for over 4 decades – that was another gift. I was introduced to other religions and given the tools to decide on which path my beliefs would take me. A disappointment to the nuns no doubt, but I have the knowledge, the understanding, and the life skills to make those decisions; thanks to those women who dedicated their lives to their God and to educating young women to be free thinkers.