Education is one of those rare things that almost all of us will have in common. We have all been to school! What that experience looks like and feels like may differ fro person to person, but learning something new is a universal experience.
I have been delving into my family tree with my grandmother over the years. One of her stories that was told to her by her mother got me thinking. This story connects five generations of women in our family…
Kate, my great-grandmother’s family are from Kent with that branch of the family tree traced back to this small village for over 400 years. They were agricultural folk, working on farms in the area where the entire family would help bring in the beets and potato crops in freezing weather before school each morning as the family income depended on that plot of land being harvested.
At one point my great-great-grandmother approached the village school because she was so concerned about the standard of education that her 9 children were being offered. This would have been the late 1880’s a time when I am sure women rarely ventured into meetings with those in authority or without their husbands – but on this day she went to visit the principal at the village school.
On discussion of her concerns, which I assume was reading and writing, he told her that the school had been encouraged not to teach the children too much otherwise they would leave the farms and then there would be no one left to work the land. This amazing woman had a greater sense of social justice and knew she wanted more for her children’s future.
Needless to say her daughter, my great-grandmother Kate, did leave the farm and worked in service in professional households during her formative years. In these roles there was an expectation on her deportment, communication and education. Kate eventually married an engineer and had returned from travelling the world building locomotives (at the turn of the century he worked in Argentina before trekking out of the jungle with a mule and a mate). During their marriage, Kate was the person who wrote all their business correspondence and no doubt kept the books. She instilled a love of reading in her children. Many of my childhood memories visiting my Nanna and her sisters include them sitting with large books in front of them. Even today, my lovely Nan at 88, still gets library books delivered each month and devours them all.
Education values can influence so many future generations, it becomes the ethos of how one operates, the life they strive for and what they aspire to achieve.
And here in 2014, I am a teacher, working with other teachers to achieve their career goals and to improve learning for students. I think back to my great-great grandmother bravely sitting in a school room after a hard day working in the fields, perhaps trying to hide her dirt ingrained hands in the folds of her best Sunday dress because she is worried her children’s future was being compromised. I wish I could thank her for the amazing gift she left for all of us – knowledge that education is power, drive to pursue a better life for the next generation and pride that her descendants have benefited from her bravery and embraced learning, reading and education.