Once upon a time, in a town far away, I was a school teacher. And while it seems like a lifetime ago, it wasn’t really – because I refuse to believe I’m that old. Anyway, for your information (because I’m sure you’re interested) the short history of my teaching journey went like this:
I finished high school and applied to get into Teachers’ College. They kindly welcomed me with open arms (they were obviously desperate!) but then in a moment of clarity, I decided that it wasn’t really for me. So, I pulled the pin and went farming in the King Country instead. The bottom fell out of farming, so I headed back up to Auckland to try Teachers’ College again. This time I only just scraped in because I cracked a joke about women and equal rights in my interview. It went down like a lead balloon, as I’m sure you could imagine.
Anyway, I managed to convince the selection panel that I wasn’t a male chauvinist pig (the bane of all modern educators) and was a worthy applicant. I made it through my three years training without too many issues, largely by focussing on PE, Outdoor Ed and making musical instruments. These were all far more interesting subjects than maths and literacy. Upon finishing my study, I wound up teaching in South Auckland for the next few years …
While I’ve never been fond of paperwork, I loved working with kids. I was incredibly fortunate to end up in a school in Manurewa (my hometown – ‘Rewa hard!) with an amazing principal who understood my distaste for the ministry’s love of administration. She would give me time to get my planning in order – and in return, I took on some kids who were, in a nutshell, really hard work. At least, they were for some teachers.
Luckily, I really enjoyed these ‘rough-around-the-edges’ tamariki. They had spunk, they were tough, and (once you’d won them over!) they were incredibly loyal. But at times, they were really hard work. And sadly, many of them came from broken, dysfunctional homes.
Somebody once told me that everyone has a story. And as teachers, we needed to find out those stories, because they can help explain a child’s behaviour. I clearly remember a girl I taught in a previous school getting caught stealing. Stuff had been going missing over the past few days from kid’s bags and this young lady was caught red-handed. Due process was followed and she ended up in pretty big trouble. But during the process, I happened to find out a bit of her story …
This 12-year-old girl had been used by her grandmother since she was five to break into houses. She’d get pushed through small toilet windows when the occupants were out, and taught to go to the front door and unlock it. The rest of the family would then come in and rob it. Explains things a bit, eh.
I had children in my class who’d come to school stoned. Not because they were naughty kids having a ‘toke’ early in the morning, but because their mum and her partner would smoke dope at the breakfast table and blow it into their children’s faces for a laugh. Even her toddler.
Kids would sometimes turn up with bruises and black eyes – and it wasn’t because they’d slipped down the stairs, or tripped and landed on the coffee table. And I had one beautiful young girl attempt to hang herself at home … she was only 10-years-old and couldn’t handle the bullying.
So, things were pretty messy at times.
One of the more difficult parts of being a teacher, at least for me, was the sense of helplessness you’d feel at times. I grew to love ‘my kids’ – and while I could look after them from 9am to 3pm, after that they were out of my care, and sometimes stink things happened to them. And it was even more heart-wrenching when those things happened at home.
You see, a child’s home should be a safe place for them. It should be the location of a loving family, and a refuge from all the bad stuff ‘out there’. But sadly, that’s not the case for many kids in this country.
Our SCHOOLS & PRESCHOOLS PROJECT is our attempt to reach more families at the coal-face. And as a used-to-be teacher, I can tell you first-hand that I wish I had something like Grapevine to send home with the kids I was teaching. To get those mags into the hands of their parents could’ve made a difference to at least some of those families. How do I know this? Because as a dad and husband, Grapevine has made a difference to ME!
Now, you could say I’m biased – and maybe I am! But the truth is, Grapevine is a fantastic resource – especially for parents. And all these years reading positive, creative, practical, and helpful articles have made me a better Dad and a better husband.
So, this is why I’m such a believer … and why I believe our SCHOOLS AND PRESCHOOLS PROJECT is one of the most exciting breakthroughs that Grapevine’s had in years!
This project is giving us the chance to deliver Grapevine to new generations of Kiwi parents. Selected schools and preschools are being offered bulk copies of Grapevine each quarter – free of charge – to be used where they’re most needed. And the response from teachers and staff has been overwhelming. They see Grapevine as a valuable resource … they can’t get enough copies … and those copies are being sent home (with their warm encouragement) to mums and dads via the kids.
A massive 55,000 copies of the latest Grapevine were requested by 1250 enthusiastic schools and preschools! And, with thousands more schools and preschools yet to be approached, those numbers are set to grow. However, it’s not cheap, packing 55,000 Grapevines into bundles (average 50 copies) and sending them by courier to schools and preschools all over the country. In fact, it costs us roughly $75 per bundle. But, with YOUR help, we can make it happen.
These are exciting times for us - and this is an exciting challenge! We'd love for you to join us in our Schools and Preschools Project if you can. In the meantime, THANK YOU to all our supporters … in anticipation! You’re helping us make a difference. You’re contributing to one of the most important ‘breakthroughs’ we’ve had in years – getting magazines into the hands of families at the coalface.
Mike Cooney (Editor)