Back when I was at University studying to be a teacher, I was assigned to do my final ‘Internship and Practicum’ at a little two teacher school (which shall remain nameless) out in the country. It was in an area where there were a lot of ‘alternative lifestyles’ being happily lived out, with families living in everything from million-dollar mansions through to corrugated iron huts down in the rainforest.
The internship involved teaching one day a week at the school and then there were two three week block practicums. It was really exciting to have that much time in a classroom (when compared to sitting around the Plaza at Southern Cross University watching the modern-day hippy dudes swanning around exploring their alternate universes!)
Anywho, I had a really small class of great kids that came from all walks of life. Hippies, professionals, alternates, everyone was represented. Kids had feathers in their hair and bells on their ankles, whilst others had pressed school uniforms and neat lunchboxes. It was an eclectic family that gathered every lunchtime to eat together around a tree out in the schoolyard.
One day we decided to have a bush dance as a community event hosted by our little school. It would bring the community together and our kids did a dance programme every morning before going off to their class. The bush dance would be the culmination event after all of the kid’s hard work.
The night finally arrived. I organised a bush band I had been playing the guitar with to come along and provide the entertainment, so I had been busy setting up with the band, doing sound checks and generally keeping the kids all moving in the right direction. BBQ’s were fired up, and food by the mountain started arriving. Our little school with only two small classes was inundated with over two hundred people. They’d come out of the bush as soon as someone mentioned there would be free food and a bush band.
The night was a blast. Parents, kids, all of the bush ferals dancing and going crazy. There was all of this crazy food made out of lentils, figs, bush tucker and every other mix of alternate cuisine you could imagine. The only issue was smoke drifting from behind the hall…!
Now, this was the far north coast of NSW. Home of the bus parked up in the bush with thirty hillbillies living under a tarp. The land of crochet socks being worn as shoes and buildings in the main street painted with all sorts of flamboyant interpretations of the wacky weed leaf. It wasn’t the re-invented interpretations of ‘alternate’ that have sprung up since. This was hardcore alternate…
The thing that spun me out was these people who Monday to Friday used to harass me about making sure I taught their kids the three R’s… Were the same ones who had rejected the modern lifestyle. They were bankers and solicitors, doctors and engineers who had walked away from ‘decadent capitalism’ and taken up living in corrugated iron tee-pees complete with internal open fireplaces down in the three hundred acres of pristine rainforest they had bought with the proceeds of getting out of Sydney.
They may have looked wild and taken up the alternate lifestyle, but they wanted their kids to be well taught and have the opportunity to make their own choices. Whilst some of their lifestyle choices were (to me) way off the reservation, they were deeply invested in their kids, and I admired that. They were well educated, articulate, and at heart great people who just wanted the best for their kids. It was the thing we shared and formed the basis for a strong working relationship.
Here’s my point. You don’t have to embrace all of the same choices to find common bonds. Heritage is a ‘broad church’ when it comes to our families. But all have the same commitment to being part of a community that is focused on our kids. I did, and still, do respect people’s right to choose how they live their lives. But Heritage is an educational community where we don’t focus on our differences, but rather we focus on our common cause, that is, equipping, empowering and growing our kids to be the people God intends them to be.
As Paul says to Timothy, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith”. We hope as teachers to be able to say this of our time in education.