Good holidays, short working days, what more could any girl want than to teach. That is what I was told time and time again.
I toyed with the idea of studying law, but was encouraged by my elders that teaching was the job for a girl. So, a teacher I became and right from the beginning was drawn in to the world of special education. My teacher training had given me no real insight in to special education, or none that I can remember anyway. I was though, completely fascinated by special education right from the start of my journey into teaching.
I have always supported, had empathy for, the troubled, the underdog. In effect – drawn to them like crackers to cheese. I’m not entirely sure why.
My first teaching post was to be in Limavady, a market town situated between Portrush, where I lived then, and Londonderry, the second largest city in N. Ireland.
My interview for the post of assistant teacher should have alerted me to the ‘special’ times ahead. Sitting at the head of a long table in the Board Room, I was quaking at the thought of the impending interview. I was so nervous that I had driven myself to the interview with the handbrake on! There could well have been smoke coming out of the engine – I noticed nothing. I shudder to think of the damage I may have done to my mother in law’s car.
I had just been formally introduced to the very formal Board of Governors when the window was hammered noisily from outside. A massively irate parent with a pronounced speech impediment was shouting loudly at the headmaster to come out. Believe me; she wanted him out and she wanted him out now!
Flustered, embarrassed and most probably upset by the scene, the Governors basically forgot to ask me any difficult questions and offered me the post. To be fair, I also have to tell you that… I was the only applicant for the job. Those were the days! Most teaching posts in special schools at that time were difficult to fill – I have no idea why.
The first day in a special school for children with moderate learning difficulties (plus many other difficulties) was mind boggling. I floundered. Big time! Confronted with a class of 14-15 year olds I was completely out of my comfort zone. Out of my depth completely as it turned out. They knew it; I knew it; and they quickly took advantage. The lesson ended in chaos when one of the boys kicked me hard on the shins, legged it out of the classroom and disappeared at speed out of the school grounds. He, I think his name was Kevin, was apprehended about four miles away on the mountain road. Cold, wet and hungry I don’t think he even remembered kicking me. He was on my mind – I didn’t feature on his.