Reflections on living a contented life, teaching and school

In a previous post I introduced you to Pauline King, The Contented Crafter. In comments on my blog, Pauline revealed that she was a teacher so passionate about education that she had attempted to establish an alternative school. I was excited to discover that we have these things in common and I immediately invited her to share some additional thoughts about children, learning, schools and education.

I am honoured that she has agreed, and delighted to welcome her here. In this post Pauline shares a little of her life journey, and her reflections on teaching and school. In a future post she will share her some of her wisdom about children and parenting.

Pauline, please tell us a little about yourself. What things are most important to you? What do you hope to achieve through blogging?

art of contentment

I was a Steiner School Teacher for some twenty years, here in NZ and in the UK briefly.  It was a demanding vocation that taught me more than I ever imparted to the students in my care.  I left teaching in 2003, spent a year or so recovering my health and eventually took up life coaching – a kind of a natural segue as I had spent a lot of my time in the school system mentoring young parents and teachers. I retired in 2014 and stepped full time into the art of contentment.  It’s what I think I spent my life looking for and in these later years what I taught to the women who came to me for life guidance. 

joy of blogging

In my personal life I have always been a creator – hand work, interior design and decorating, gardening and various crafting and artistic outlets that changed over the years.  I took up blogging almost three years ago simply to keep track of my creative work as I was notorious for making stuff, giving it away and not being able to remember what I made or the processes around it.  I soon started using my blog as an on-line diary, documenting the things that amused or dismayed me along with whatever I was playing around with at the time.  I don’t think I really expected anyone to read my blog and was quite surprised when I got comments and returned visitors and followers.  In a surprisingly short time I discovered a new world that was peopled by like-minded souls and fun people and I kept blogging for the joy found in the community that built up around my little blog.

I live alone in a tiny house with a Maine Coon called Olando and a Shi-Tzu X named Siddhartha [Siddy for short].

positivity

I live simply and contentedly, paying close attention to my own personal development and take responsibility for the events in my life.  I am not religious but view life and the planet from a spiritual outlook.  I study quantum physics, enjoy nature and believe in spreading positivity wherever I can.

I don’t write about education in my blog – even though it is an area I am passionate [and opinionated] about – I simply don’t want it to impinge into the simple creative life I lead nowadays.

Pauline, you were a teacher? What was it that attracted you to teaching in the first place?

teacher

I always wanted to be a teacher, from a very young age.  School was a safe place for me in a family that was damaged and dysfunctional, so I guess that may have been the genesis.  However, I was not allowed to stay in school and was put to work in a factory at the age of 14 [my mother lied about my age].  When I gained my freedom I set about continuing my education and have kept on learning formally and informally ever since.  I was 33, a wife and mother, before I finally achieved the goal I had as a child.

What things did you love about teaching?

art of teaching

I loved being in the classroom – working with the students and the Steiner curriculum [which is a wise and clever thing].  Later when I side-stepped into too much administration and other non-teaching roles I simply dried up and eventually became ill.  That made me really conscious that it was the art of teaching that I really loved.

You said that you spent many years attempting to establish an alternative school for your eldest daughter. Why was this important to you? What was lacking in schools available to you? How would your school differ?

bloom and blossom

My feeble attempts to start a school were short lived, I did not go as far as you did as there was little support or enthusiasm for my initiative.  Within two years I had discovered Steiner Education and serendipitously fallen head first into that with my two daughters.  Both began to bloom and blossom in ways they never had in the state system they were so briefly in and I soon transferred my interest and passion to that form of education.  I began an informal study under the auspices of a venerable old retired teacher and soon went on to study full time.  I think I was incredibly fortunate for throughout this time I was mentored and supported by several practising teachers, and one wonderful head lecturer who went out of his way to keep pouring his wisdom into my listening ears.

How wonderful to have the support and encouragement of a community so passionate about children and education. Do you have anything else to add?

it takes a village

Only that, from this vantage point I find I have become a person who would like schools scrapped and to see education in the true meaning of the word be given back to parents and the community.   My new mantra is ‘It takes a village to raise a child – and educate one too.’

I totally agree with your new mantra, Pauline! Thank you for your openness in responding to my questions. I could hear the passion in your words as you answered them. I appreciate the time you took out of your contented creative schedule to share your thoughts with us. I think there are many of us who could do with some contentment mentoring. I look forward to welcoming you back next week to share in your wisdom about children and parenting. I’d also love to know more about the Steiner curriculum. Another conversation …

Addendum: Since this post was published, in an attempt to add clarity to her statement referring to the scrapping of schools, Pauline has expressed some of her reasons for wishing to see changes to schools and the way children are educated. She has done so in a response to an observation made and query posed by Anne Goodwin which you can read here, and a little more clarification here. I apologise, Pauline, if the inclusion of that statement misrepresented your position and caused you concern. It made perfect sense to me! The differences I see between education and schooling feature regularly in my posts.

Connect with Pauline on Twitter or on her blog The Contented Crafter where you can also check out her delightful Gift Shop

Thank you

Thank you for reading. I appreciate your feedback. Please share your thoughts.

38 thoughts on “Reflections on living a contented life, teaching and school

  1. Bec

    What a great interview, and a fruitful discussion to follow. We learn so much through exploring points in which we find differences. I can attest to the loveliness of the things Pauline crafts!

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  2. Pingback: February Creations | The Contented Crafter

  3. Sherri

    Well I can see I’ve missed too many of your posts Norah, and a very interesting discussion here too. Pauline, I really enjoyed reading more of your teaching background and of course admire you greatly for the way you truly do live what you write and speak, as someone truly contented. I know from conversations we’ve shared for a while now, this is not easily won. I have not heard of Steiner Schooling before, so I Googled it for a brief look. I see too you’ve written another post here, so I’ll head over there now and read on. I’m sorry I couldn’t add more to this conversation when it was active. I could say a lot too about homeschooling and my experiences of school life for my children when I lived in California, and the huge differences when I moved back to the UK, but I feel it would be redundant now. Maybe for another time. But great discussion 🙂

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    1. Norah Post author

      Thank you, Sherri. I’d love to hear your thoughts about homeschooling and what your children experienced with schooling in California and the UK. I would love you to share it in a guest post, but I know that is an unrealistic request at this stage. Maybe in the future, when your book is published, and you have caught up on all the other projects waiting in line, you’ll have a moment to think, “Ah, years ago Norah asked me to share my ideas on education, must do that now!” You will always be welcome, whenever the time is right for you. 🙂
      Another thought: Perhaps in your book you have a section about school. If so, when you are doing your blog tour promotion, you could do that on my blog. I’ll “book” you in for that now! 🙂

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      1. Sherri

        How long have you got? Ha! Goodness, I would be honoured as a guest blogger here Norah, thank you so much! It will have to be a bit later on…but let’s hope not years, ha! There won’t be anything about schools in my memoir, but I have plans to write about my years living in California, when my children’s school years will definitely be a feature, so yes please, do book me in now for that slot! Let me get back to you with some of my earlier ‘children’ posts too…I’ll see what I can drum up! I’ve gone off the boil lately with those kind of posts (which I so enjoy) as my energies are mostly on my memoir as you know, but it’s great to keep all these irons in the fire, and I feel this way about writing about Asperger’s too. I want to keep highlighting it, but have been lax lately. Thank you Norah, you’ve given me some great food for thought. I need to get my post out for the Ranch and then I’ll be back to see you again in the week. Take care my friend 🙂 ❤

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        1. Norah Post author

          You’re booked in whenever you are ready! I would love to know about your experiences, particularly since they are not included in your memoir.
          I can’t imagine you “lax” in anything and hope you have been able to focus on your memoir this week. No need to hurry back. I’m not intending to go anywhere for a while yet. I look forward to catching up whenever we can. 🙂

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  4. Sarah Brentyn

    Was also glad to see the “scrap schools” statement clarified. There are children literally dying to go to school and get an education in parts of our world. Education is so important. Not just for jobs but for life, socializing, self-esteem… So much stems from being able to be educated. Sometimes I think we take education for granted. Especially in countries where it is required. Well, we are lucky. Lucky to have schools and lucky that our children get to go. Now. Whether we want to send them or educate them in a small group or at home is something we can decide depending on what is best for each individual child. We are lucky to be able to make that decision, too. ❤️

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    1. Norah Post author

      Thanks, Sarah. I appreciate your reminder of our advantages. It is true. We are very fortunate to live where a good education is freely available to each child, as is choice in how that education may be attained. There are many throughout the world who are denied access to resources such as we have available. Sometimes it doesn’t seem right to complain about what we have when others have none; and it is true that we often take what we have for granted. However what we have can be greatly improved, and it is towards this need for improvement that the comment was directed. Both Pauline and I would agree with the right of everyone to be educated, but I think we would also agree that there needs to be less emphasis on the content and more emphasis on the child in the institutionalized schooling that is common in our parts of the world. Your reminder of how lucky we are to live where we do is an important part of the conversation. Thank you for sharing it. 🙂

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      1. Sarah Brentyn

        I have these views, yes, but probably should have kept them to myself. At least I could have presented them in a different way. Didn’t mean to be hostile. This post really hit me. All I could think about were the photos of little girls in school uniforms in parts of the world where just getting to school (or being allowed to attend) is a triumph. They are happy to sit at their desks. I donate money to organizations that help kids (especially girls) go to school. There is so much horror in the world I can’t stand it sometimes. Didn’t mean to take it out on you and Pauline.

        One more thing that led to my comment: I’ve seen homeschooling gone wrong. Situations where it is not right for the child and the parents have an anti-school attitude and insist the child stay home. Or, alternatively, it would be fantastic for the child but the parents really shouldn’t be teaching (for various reasons). I’ve seen both of these things first-hand.

        I do feel we are extremely lucky to have education and, yes, even schools. And also the freedom to choose if we want our children to attend them (or not). I know your hearts are in the right place. Please know mine is, too. ❤

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        1. Norah Post author

          Sarah, I definitely know your heart is in the right place. There is nowhere else it could be. If your intention was to be hostile, then I missed that part. All I read was a warm reminder of how lucky we are. I agree with you entirely. Everybody has the right to an education. If we were sitting in a room together I think we’d be nodding our heads in agreement. The difficulty is when we don’t get instant feedback and support for our comments. I am grateful for your comment and am pleased you shared your views. I am delighted and affirmed that you feel so strongly about it and understand that I welcome the exchange of ideas. How else do we realise where our communication was lacking, how else do we grow?
          I too have seen some terrible results of homeschooling. But I have seen some wonderful things too. Same in schools. I am all for making education available for all. I think the Malala Yousafzai Foundation is great for this, as are many other programs. Education is empowering and the only way forward. Thank you, Sarah. I hope you always feel welcome and willing to share your views. Hugs 🙂

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  5. Charli Mills

    Wonderful post, Norah! I’m a huge fan of Pauline and her ability to share her contentment with her gifts. She embodies that life-long learner and it’s encouraging to see a progression of learning, doing and being. Thank you for interviewing her and sharing her back story!

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    1. Norah Post author

      Thank you, Charli. I’m pleased you enjoyed learning a little more about Pauline. It is wonderful for me to find another with similar views about education and learning.

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  6. roweeee

    Thank you very much, Pauline and for Norah for the introduction. I have very conflicted views about education vs schooling and having bright kids who need to put the hours into study and getting the grades while at the same time getting an education, which like you’ve both said, is something different altogether. Our daughter has shown her stripes from a very early age, where our son has struggled with some family issues and a tendency towards the spectrum. This year, our daughter has been accepted into a selective primary school class. I was initially quite excited about this and she said she wants to aim for the selective high school and ultimately become a doctor. This, of course, puts her on a trajectory towards becoming some kind of battery hen, unless we find and pursue our own path. Not all these kids are tutored and some modestly so but in Sydney some kids are doing 20-40 hours of homework or tutoring a week after school and they’re applying for our regional high school as it’s not far on the train. I don’t know if all of this is necessary and once school goes back and she starts up, I’ll have a better idea of what we’re dealing with.
    My son on the other hand had very little homework and my education battle with him is diverting him away from Minecraft and electronics. Broadening his horizons.
    Both our kids do scouts, which has actually turned out to be much more creative than I’d ever expected.
    I guess what I’m saying with all of this that it’s hard to juggle the competing needs of getting the marks and gaining an education and emerging from the whole process as a rounded person. That’s where education via the village is important too. Through mixing with a variety of people, you become more flexible, accepting and embracing of difference and become better adjusted.
    Anyway, just a few thoughts. xx Rowena

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    1. Norah Post author

      Thanks so much for joining in the conversation, Rowena. I know the path your children are taking in schooling is very focused on the academic, but you also provide them with many other opportunities, including much support at home. It will be interesting to see how they both go in their new schools this year. I think you have expressed elsewhere the need for balance, and I think that is important too. I think it is tragic when children are under so much pressure to perform that they lose some of what it means to be a child, become stressed and burned out even before they leave school. To be a doctor is a wonderful ambition and I wish your daughter well in achieving her goals. Sounds like son may be heading towards a future in software development? A friend couldn’t get her son off his computer all the way through high school. He wasn’t sure what he wanted to do after school and had a “gap” year, during which he spent most of his time playing games on the computer. He has just finished a degree in Information Technology and immediately scored himself a job with a software development company. He’ll be working in a field he loves.
      I have read lots of articles about the educational value of Minecraft and recently saw that a version for education has been released. I wonder if it will be as “educational” as the original. 🙂

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    1. thecontentedcrafter

      Thanks Geoff – I’m sorry about the lack of information and reasoning in my first response – I obviously somehow assumed everyone would be inside my head and understanding where I was coming from……. This is just another reason why I could never write a novel 🙂

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  7. thecontentedcrafter

    Good Morning Norah – I came by to leave a clarifying note about my ‘abolish schools’ statement and your friend Anecdotist had already picked up on it. So a few further thoughts are there as a response to her comment. I should also say that I know it’s a radical statement and it is made slightly tongue in cheek, but has a serious purpose behind it.

    Even though my teaching days are well behind me I still bear that passion for enabling every student to shine in their own way and believe that should be the aim of every educator. [Obviously we don’t always succeed – it’s a very high aim. But aim we must!]

    Thanks for inviting me to share my thoughts, you’ve done a great job of presenting my rambling thoughts.

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    1. Norah Post author

      Thank you, Pauline. As I said in the intro, it is both an honour and a pleasure to share your ideas on my blog. I don’t think that passion for education or those beliefs about how children learn can be extinguished. They are a part of who we are and I would definitely never wish the fire to go out. That would be a sad day if I no longer cared about education.

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  8. Annecdotist

    Thanks for introducing us to Pauline, Norah, she certainly sounds like your soulmate!
    Pauline, thanks for an interesting read and congratulations on claiming contentment. I did wonder, however, about your conclusion in wanting school to be scrapped, given your own expertise as a teacher and that, as a child, school rescued you from a difficult family.

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    1. thecontentedcrafter

      Do you know I woke up this morning and thought to myself I really should have clarified that statement …………… I haven’t finished first coffee yet, so this may be a bit dodgy 🙂 Please do let me know if it remains unclear.

      I think education has lost its way. Since the 80’s in this country anyway it has come more and more under governmental control [rather than educators] and is heavily influenced by the perceived need to ‘get a job’ at the end of it. [The fact that there are less jobs to be got is a whole other story isn’t it!] The aim of education should be to awaken the seeking spirit, to arouse an interest in the world and in all its myriad faces and to enable a child to learn how to learn. That last bit is the key I think and the very bit that is becoming more and more lost.

      Today’s schools are narrowly academic, suiting a small portion of learning styles. The target appears to be to pass exams. There are many students who are attending schools now who are untouched, unmotivated and leaving uneducated. [I have met some who at the age of fifteen cannot write their addresses down or read questions on an employment profile.]

      There are kids who do not do well sitting at a desk for hours on end or being ‘still’ and ‘quiet’. These are the doers, the kinaesthetic learners, the ones who will make things and invent things or be great athletes or adventurers. Yet they leave their education filled with the knowledge that they have failed because they did not fit the mold. There are the artists and the creators and the kid who wants to drive a truck, be a fireman or ‘go bush’ – these are all valid lifestyle choices and yet those who choose this are deemed academic failures.

      As human beings we are all good at something. Not so good at something else. Missing is the bit that respects each person for their strengths and their abilities. Seen as desirable is being best, being top,. being ‘a winner’. For every winner there is a loser, and while schools and society may pretend that isn’t so, kids know better.

      Part of education is socialisation. The students in a classroom form a mini version of society. There they will meet and have to deal with all kinds of personalities – some they will get along with, others will be more challenging. Learning the social skills required to be a contributing member of society should be a valid and valued aspect of being in a classroom. If it isn’t, then I think education is letting it’s students down. Learning to communicate, compromise, support and be supported – these are all valuable aspects of any person and any society.

      These are just some of the reasons why I feel the way I do about schools nowadays. I hope that helps, I’m off to get second coffee now 🙂

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      1. Norah Post author

        You have made some very valid points here, Pauline, and I very much appreciate the time you have taken to expand on your “throw away” comment.
        Learning how to learn is very important. Children are born knowing how to learn through their own explorations and discoveries, but there is much more to learning than that. There comes a time when it is valuable to learn from others who have done it before, but only when the time is right for each learner.
        I agree with you too about the focus of schooling being too narrowly academic. There is much more to life than the three Rs. They are important too, essential in fact, but so are many other areas, especially social emotional development. And as you say, there are children (people) with a whole range of interests and abilities. We make a good team, you, me and Ken Robinson, and many others as well. Respect is definitely THE important ingredients, essential in every part of life. Children are no less worthy. They are more worthy. They need to see it modeled so they can learn it. They need to receive it so they can return it. They need to feel it and experience so that they understand how it feels for another.
        I think we could talk forever about how things could be improved. I mentioned Robert Hoge’s memoir to you. The way he was treated at school makes me want to cry. And I’m not talking about only by the children. I’m talking about by teachers, and even a school principal! And these were Catholic schools. He is a strong resilient man. He needed to be. We could all learn a lot from him.
        Thank you for adding your further wisdom to this post. I love these conversations. 🙂

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          1. Norah Post author

            I like nodding heads in agreement. 🙂
            Let me know if you are serious about Robert’s book. I bought my ebook from Amazon and my audiobook from itunes. The paperback I bought at the writers’ festival, but it should be available from the Book Depository, or other brick and mortar stores. I am happy to source one here for you if wish. 🙂

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      2. jennypellett

        Hello Pauline and Norah
        I’ve just landed here from your post today, Pauline. Wish I’d seen this earlier. Did I write this comment here? 😀😀 We are singing from the same hymn sheet here, my goodness. I rant on about our education system everyday in a similar vein. As you know, I work in a main stream school supporting students with autism. Trying to fit their needs into our ever decreasing curriculum is a creative challenge in itself. In the UK we got rid of one Education Secretary only to be saddled with his clone. There is less and less opportunity for creative lessons. Exams are key. Our kids are treated like robots. Yet given half the chance most of them come up with something amazingly inventive. Where will our world be in a few years time when all we’ve done is churn out coding programmers. Who will be the creators, the inventors, the artists and the writers. Argh! I could go on for days.
        Very interested that you taught in a Steiner School. A very good friend of mine was educated in one. There is one in East Grinstead, long established in the south east and another I know of is near Totnes in Devon. Interestingly, both these towns are what you might call ‘ alternative.’ Thanks for an interesting and insightful post ladies.

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        1. Norah Post author

          Thank you for visiting with Pauline, Jenny. It’s lovely to meet you. While it’s always a pleasure to meet others with similar views, I am always saddened when those views reflect the tragic way many of our children are treated by supposedly educational institutions. If only Education Secretaries, or Ministers as we call them in Australia, knew something about children, their needs and how they learn.
          Interesting you say that you could go on for days. It was just such a comment made by Pauline that brought her this way with her guest posts. If you are willing, I’d love you to share your thoughts in more detail. 🙂
          It would be interesting, also, to hear what your friend thought of her education in a Steiner school.
          I look forward to further conversations, Jenny. I think we have much to discuss. Thanks for dropping by. 🙂

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    2. Norah Post author

      Thanks, Anne. That’s an interesting observation to make. Though I would have to say that, although I enjoyed my years working with children, I would like to see big changes in the way education is offered with smaller community-based schools that encourage parental involvement, as opposed to the large institutions that tend to focus more on conformity than individuals. Educators, mentors and guides would still be important. This is what I was aiming for with my alternative to school. It will be interesting to hear Pauline’s response to your comment.

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