Finding My Way

Father loved the sea. He had got used to taking long walks along the promenade before we arrived. Now we went with him. To the north there was an area laid out with fake rocks that linked the lower with the top promenade. We loved clambering about there leaping from rock to rock to see how far we could jump. Nearby there was a flower bed laid out like a clock.

If we walked in the other direction we would pass first the North Pier and the Central Pier and finally the South Pier.

This part was called The Golden Mile. All the entertainments were artificial, quite the opposite from Rayleigh where I always felt bathed in nature. Whilst at first I was fascinated by the variety of side-shows, shops and mechanical games I soon tired of them and greatly missed feeling close to natural landscapes.

In September I began my first term at The Collegiate School for Girls. This was a comparably new school which celebrated its twenty fifth anniversary when I was in the sixth form. It did not last much longer after I left.

Twenty years after I took up my first teaching job in a new comprehensive school. A few years later the place was closed and converted into a business centre. Did some of my contempt for my experiences of our educational system cause these schools to whither and die?

Looking back I have much to be grateful for although I was far from happy there. As in most schools there were only a few inspired teachers. But they made a strong impression on me in my favourite subjects, languages and mathematics. There was always a sharp division between teachers and children. Games and PT I abhored and went out of my way to avoid as much as possible. I was incredibly inventive in escaping them most of the time. Mother helped by writing me spurious notes.

Much later I spent only five years teaching in two schools, the second a girls’ grammar school, for one reason only. I had just returned from eight years in Venezuela with my two small sons and I badly needed to do some useful work apart from taking care of my children. As a university graduate with an honours degree I was equipped to teach and it was the only kind of work I could do where I could spend time with my boys during evenings, week-ends and school holidays.

Very few schools taught Spanish, which was my academic subject. All schools seemed to have difficulty in finding maths teachers. I had received a distinction for maths in my school certificate and I loved the subject. I was taken on. In my first school I had a wonderful head of department who was a good teacher and a kind man. The headmaster and deputy head were hopeless. The children had no respect for them. They had no idea how to maintain discipline but my boss was very good at it. The worst class consisted of fifteen year old boys who did not want to be there at all. Apart from that class I didn’t do too badly. In fact I found that I enjoyed giving individual help to children who had fallen behind and couldn’t catch up.

Those years as a teacher were useful to me but I soon knew that I must find something to do for myself. Since I have always been a rebel I knew that whatever I did I must be in control of my own work. I didn’t like working in groups, I was much better on my own. From that time on I have followed the entrepreneurial path and I never looked back.

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