Monday, August 28, 2006

I Was Certified

As a teacher, that is. I still have the letter, dated September 13, 1963. It begins:

“The Minister is pleased to inform you that, having completed to his satisfaction a scheduled course of training, you are eligible for the status of qualified teacher.”

Back then there were two ways to become a teacher in England. You either got a bachelor’s degree and went out and taught whatever your degree was in, or you took a one-year teachers’ training course first. The difference in pay was negligible and no-one cared if you took the course.

It was, however, common knowledge that the year could be most enjoyable as long as you didn’t attend classes and the government was footing the bill anyway. So I applied to the University of London Institute of Education.

The methods courses, under the direction of Professor Sharwood Smith and Barbara Hodgeson, were wonderful. The practice teaching was invaluable and we were monitored carefully. I did pretty well and still have the letter of recommendation I received from them.

As for the other classes—the history of Education, the Psychology of Education, Comparative Education—I don’t recall a thing. The only person is our cohort of classicists who did any work for these papers was the only one who failed. He went on to become a respected wood-carver. As I was “organizing” the other day, I came across the question papers for the examination which made me certifiable. Apparently I also took a course in Health Education. You had to write three essays on topics all from Section A or all from Section B. I am assuming that Section B was for students returning to or intending to teach in her Majesty’s colonies, since they addressed such issues as, “What are the various points to be observed in the construction of a village well in order to prevent contamination of its water”. You certainly didn’t need to be able to answer question 10, “What might lead you to suspect that children in your school were infected with hookworm” to teach in Welwyn Garden City.

No, I tackled three from Section A. I avoided the question which asked: “To what extent do you consider that you can make a contribution to health education through the medium of your own subject?” I was going to teach Classics! What did they expect? The outline of a class which studied the history, customs and culture of the three parts into which, in the immortal words of Julius Caesar, Gaul was divided, with particular attention to their attitude to brushing their teeth? No, I answered this question:

What is your attitude as a teacher to two of the following:

  1. cigarette smoking
  2. sex education
  3. accident prevention
Was I for them? Did it matter as long as I argued my point logically? I’ll never know, but the Minister was quite satisfied.

No comments: