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Ed Said - Just listen and learn


dadThough I can’t really say I hated school it wasn’t the greatest time in my life. I could always read, write, spell and do arithmetic well so cruised through primary school on my wits. Secondary school became a necessary interruption to life to be borne rather than used as a tool to shape ones future when there were much more important activities to be enjoyed by a farmer’s son. 

Of course, back in the 60s people like parents, school teachers, headmasters and police held authority and respect. Sadly such is not the case today. Rules are not just challenged, they are openly defied. A new education began when I went to a city school at age 15. This was the first time I had witnessed such defiance. 

Failure to hand in homework twice in a row meant a walk to the principal’s office and the mandatory two strokes of the cane. Not a big deal really, and at that age, if our parents found out, they thought we probably deserved it. On this occasion two of the three recipients took our punishment but the third lad who had incidentally been moved on from another school for similar insubordination, simply refused to bend over saying “no, you’re not going to cane me.” Frustration from the Head but basically end of story. 

Another instance was when one lad attended PE without his correct attire. The PE instructor was a fit, athletic young man but also quite short in stature. The errant boy was however a big lad to the extent that, as a 14-year-old, earned the position of prop in the front row of the First XV rugby team. The instructor stood before him and bawled him out like a Sergeant Major would an erring Private whereupon the lad reached out took him by the lapels, lifted him off the ground, shook him two or three times and placed him back on his feet. Not a word was spoken but the message was clear. That defiance was way out of my league. 

Going to a new school with 50 classrooms and hundreds of kids I never knew simply had me flummoxed which was often my cue to spend threepence to catch the bus from Pakuranga College to Howick when I could walk home, arriving generally at the same time as my other siblings or call in to the local supermarket to spend a couple of hours weighing potatoes into 5 and 10 pound bags as was the custom in those days – a dusty job that no staff members liked but which suited me better than school. I later worked there for three years when I left school for good.

In later years I have some regrets of not applying myself better. I had often thought I could have enjoyed history had I shown more interest. One thing I did remember is the words of young British statesman Robert Lowe saying “we must educate our masters.” Easily taken out of context but when we, the older generation, sit back and listen more closely to our children and grandchildren there is a lot we can still learn. A lot is in the acceptance of the listener and the attitude of the ‘teller’. This was brought home to me last week when I had to pick up a 9-year-old grandson from school, his busy parents being pulled in different directions. I asked him “How was your day?” “It was great.” He answered enthusiastically. I asked him what he did at school. He said “Oh, we played and did maths and stuff.” I quietly marvelled that he really enjoyed school and said as much to which he replied “Poppa, it’s S-C-H-O-O-L, Six Cool Hours Of Our Lives.” With an attitude like that, this lad will go a long way.


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