Another Brick in the Wall – Lisl Prendergast

Welcome, Lisl. So today is really her teaching life. Lisl, over to you and welcome again. [Applause]

Lisl Prendergast: [Maori welcome] Really nice to be here; thank you, Joyce, for inviting me. And I’ve kept my Maori mihi to a minimum because there is quite a lot of material here, so I propose to plunge into it. But the title you probably know – Another Brick in the Wall – comes from Pink Floyd; for those of you who don’t remember Pink Floyd, it’s that wonderful song [sings] We Can’t Get No Education’, with rocketing Jimmi Hendrix guitars in the background. So that’s where I got the title from. I hope my title is the game of two halves; I’ve got a Powerpoint, but I’m going to talk first and then do the Powerpoint. I have timed this so if you think it’s going to go for an hour, I promise it isn’t. It is shorter than an hour – just! [Chuckles]

Right … okay, so I hope my title for this talk is not too obtuse. It is of course from Pink Floyd,We Can’t Get No Education’. When you are young it is easy, through energy and hubris … good Greek word; pride in oneself, hubris … to think that you are a great educator, but as education is a life long process in reality most of us are just another a slot in the timetable, or indeed, another brick in the wall. I do want to say that the glib Irishman, George Bernard Shaw, however, got it very wrong. ‘Those who can, do, and those that can’t, teach,’ was his famous quote. This is far from accurate. I much prefer Thomas Moore’s advice to Richard Rich in the wonderful play ‘A Man For all Seasons’, by Robert Bolt. Richard Rich is his servant; he’s upwardly mobile, ambitious and capricious. He said to him that he could do a lot worse than to become a teacher. [Sound of heavy rain outside library] It is an honest, straightforward and immensely satisfying job, and Sir Thomas Moore knew that. You don’t acquire much wealth, or great wealth, but with any luck you do acquire some wisdom and immense satisfaction.

I started my teaching career while at university after only one year away from Hastings Girls’ High School. Jean Kelt, the headmistress in 1969, allowed me to go back to teach the UE accredited [University Entrance Accreditation] classes. I’m very grateful to Miss Kelt. And the nice thing about tonight is actually the ability to be able to acknowledge some of these people who were powerful influences in my life, and who I am really grateful to.

My other job that also began while I was still at Victoria doing a BA [Bachelor of Arts] in English and History, was a music teaching part time position at Matauranga, which was a small private school with some rather radical ideas on education. It had been started by Marie Bell, who in her eighties was later to complete a PhD in Education. The 1970s were the era of A S Neill, Pablo Freire, Marshall McLuhan, Ivan Illich – radical thinkers with radical ideas. A group of playcentre parents who were deeply opposed to corporal punishment in schools had got together and formed Matauranga. They were an interesting group of people; the parents were Downstage actors, people who had been educated themselves in the Montessori Schools of post-war Europe, artists, and even a Reserve Bank economist’s children were at the school. It was heady stuff, and I loved it. There was no classroom in the formal sense, there was no teacher territory and pupil territory, no uniform, and a parent helper system, which of course, the idea had been borrowed from the play centre movement. Parents were encouraged to come to school, unlike A S Neil’s school, Summerhill, which was a boarding school, as the radical English educator believed that parents often retarded their childrens’ growth. [Chuckles] These were very, very heady days … the seventies. Parents came in and contributed to French, nature study, crafts and cooking. It was a very colourful school which in those days was in a pre-fab[ricated building] amidst mud at the back of Karori Normal School in Karori. Later the school moved to the old Holy Family School in the Aro valley.

Matauranga was often in the news and there were several Listener articles written on it. Marie Bell was a very courageous educator who dared to be different. She was also a personal friend of Dame Marie Clay, the famous reading person who was also, I have to tell you now, an old girl of Wellington East Girls’ College that I’ll be mentioning in my talk. She embraced Te Matauranga or Te Ao Maori before many other schools. The school had a council meeting every week where children openly chatted about what had been good and not so good for them in the preceding week. When I began at the school in 1970, the school had already been going for about eight years. Marie Bell retired in 1971. I’m very pleased that I had this opportunity as it forced me to look beyond the traditional schooling that I had had, and to question pedagodgy and the cultural mores of schools. Marie had studied at the Education Institute of London University, and had been the sole charge of a small school up the Wanganui River. Her first husband, who was killed in the Second World War, was a Metekingi from the Wanganui area, and her commitment to the Maoritanga and kapa haka were very sincere.

You can picture me – I am twenty, permanently in blue jeans and a seaman’s jersey, anti-apartheid, anti-the Vietnam war, anti-Keith Holyoak – passionately – fan of Tim Shadbolt, and reading Simone de Beauvoir. [Chuckles] How did I survive? Ah, the seventies … it was a memorable but often rocky era. I graduated with a very ordinary BA, [Bachelor of Arts] but it was a double major with four useful teaching subjects. I was dying to earn real money so I did not stay for an Honours year but decamped to Christchurch Teachers’ College in 1972. I think I was fortunate as I was in Stan Newman and Barry Brailsford’s history group, and they were both excellent teachers. We also went on an archaeological dig on the Kaikoura peninsula at the end of the year.

My teaching sections were very varied; I had a big urban school, Freyberg High School in Palmerston North; Waikohu College, Te Karaka, [just] out of Gisborne and seventy percent Maori; and Southland Girls’ High School. I loved the teaching I did, and taught all of my degree subjects – English, History, Geography and Music. At the end of the year there was the toing and froing … it’s really funny how appointments were done in those days; they were done by telegram. Now there’s a word for you – you take telegram today, and the kids today would just go, “What?” I just say to them, “They were our text messages.” [Chuckles] So the telegrams went to and fro in the season of job applications, which was October. I was offered a job by nice Rosemary James at Napier Girls’ [High School] and I turned it down as it was too much like the school I had attended. I don’t mean that in a disparaging way either, I just mean I was determined to do something different.

I also turned down Kuranui [College] in Greytown which I deemed to be conservative, and opted for Makoura College in Masterton which was doing some really interesting and experimental things. It was run by a very interesting Principal called Noel Scott. This school was non-streamed and had a very well-run experience unit for students with special learning needs. The seniors were allowed to wear mufti, and the classrooms were not, as Adams put it, emotional deserts. This was the college that made headlines by having a student representative on the Board of Trustees – a radical notion in that era. I am very grateful to Makoura as it gave me a very useful apprenticeship. I believe it was very formative for many teachers, as many went on to stay in education, and some to become educational leaders –

Dennis Pyatt at Papanui High School, John Riley at Hawera High School, Jill Davidson at Hastings Girls’ High School, and Mike Hollings who’s still at Te Kura in Wellington, The Correspondence School. [Coughing] He is still their Chief Executive Officer – to name but a few. It was a school that encouraged new ways of approaching subjects, and during my time there I took a Fourth Form [chuckle] social studies trip – I laugh about this now – round the East Coast, Tairawhiti. We stayed away five nights on five different maraes, and as Mike Hollings [chuckle] says to me quite often – he says, “D’you know, Leisl, only you could’ve done that. You know three words of Maori and two songs”, [chuckles] “and away you went.” [Chuckles] And it’s true.

So that lovely quote from Oscar Wilde, ‘I’m not young enough to know everything’ – I always think of that, and I do think, ‘Yes, you do think you’re bulletproof and you know absolutely everything.’

There was much to value at Makoura, including Year 9 Outdoor Education in the Akatarawas, a programme called Panorama where students could choose an elective option.

After Makoura I spent a year and a half travelling in Europe and the Middle East. I returned to an LTR … long-term relieving position at Central Hawke’s Bay College. Central Hawke’s Bay was larger than Makoura; Makoura had about six-fifty students, Central had over eight hundred students, and even got as large as nine hundred students at one stage, many of whom travelled to school on the bus. I boarded in the nursing home, now demolished – I didn’t cause it! [Chuckles] And it was a more conservative school than Makoura, and when I trialled group work within English class, chaos reigned. No previous experience of group work. And Mrs Foster, who’s here tonight will remember Win Primmer – I inherited the class from Mr Primmer, who was a very good teacher but was very much straight up and down; straight lines … desks in straight lines so you didn’t have any time for group work; and the class looked at me as though I was completely batty, which I probably was to even think that they’d cope with group work.

I helped with the Maori Club which was taken by a wonderful parent called Truby Mihaere. He had been a Baptist minister in the Bay of Plenty and had come home to Central to be a shepherd of a different kind. My connection with puke kaihoe, the school’s cultural group, was very real and immediate. As at my Makoura I felt I had missed a whole world that my schooling had never connected me with; we took the fifty students to a little park called Otukou on the shores of Lake Rotoaira. It will always be a highlight for me of that first year at Central.

I was offered a job at the end of the year, but I chose Hillcrest High School, only because it had Fifth Form Social Studies, a new and internally assessed subject. Hillcrest is a large, urban school in the university suburb of Hamilton. I had a very bright Fifth Form English class who produced some outstanding work, some of which … you wouldn’t believe this … is in my shed at Te Awanga. I kept it. There were twelve hundred students at the school and it was in the old S68 designed buildings, which were awful. Somebody had a bright architectural idea which didn’t work. They were noisy, cold and leaky, and this is leaky before the Hardie’s claddings saga. [Chuckles]

At the end of the year I was very flattered to be offered a relieving HOD [Head of Department] English position at Central Hawke’s Bay College. Mr Foster and his Assistant Principal, Cath Caskey, both rang me, and of course I was easily lured back to the Bay. I moved into a school house … lovely little house, it was yellow; I was very fond of it … for $12.50 a week. It allowed me to save some money and buy my first home when I moved to Wellington later. It was a very sad re-entry to Central though, as Cath Caskey died on Waitangi Day 1979, before the school year had even [cough] really got under way. Te Rangi Kauia Tipene-Leach as she was then, took over as Assistant Principal. She was later, as Mrs Tipene-Stevenson, to be Principal of Turakina Maori Girls’ College in Marton. I am grateful to her and her family for the insights they gave me into Te Ao Maori. While I had been at Hillcrest I went to a night class run by a wonderful Ngapuhi woman called Maria Copeland. I was keen to keep my Te Reo alive and again I helped with puke kaihoe. Some of my students from Central are in contact with me on Facebook. They were warm, generous and great fun rural kids.

Schools are funny places, and the politics of them can be very vexing when you are young and eager to change things. I respected my Principal, Mr Foster, but we did have some notable discussions. [Chuckles] Mrs Foster and I’ve been talking about this on the phone just recently. One was about the weighting of term work for UE [University Entrance] accrediting, and now you look back on it and you think, ‘Why didn’t you just go take a chill pill, Lisl? Give it away, you know, [chuckle] go home and have a brandy; doesn’t really matter.’ Makoura had a sixty/forty arrangement – sixty on term work and forty on exams, and I thought Central’s eighty-five/fifteen was very conservative – I laugh now when I think of my youth and passion.

I remember my time in Waipukurau with real affection. There were memorable croquet parties where the hoops were barely visible, owing to alcohol consumption. [Laughter] I went duck shooting, riding and kept chooks; I had four in my backyard. I had five rows of potatoes, and borrowed a hand gun from Lynn Cross who lived over the road, to deal with a wild tom cat who had killed my cat’s kittens. [Chuckles] My success … yes, I got him, and I got him in a running shot. It became an Albert Crescent legend. I will just pause there to tell you Bob Herrick who lived next door to me, came home and went in and said to Colleen, his wife, ”I think I’ve just seen Wonderwoman!” [Laughter] ‘Cause I was running with the hand gun.

In 1982 I was awarded a scholarship to attend Victoria University and do a TESL (Diploma of Teaching English as a Second Language). The best part of this was being able to return to a formal study of Te Reo Maori. I was required to do Maori 101, and I did Maori 102 as well. Hirini Moko Mead and Sir Joe Williams, who has currently been knighted and has recently been appointed as a High Court Judge, were my tutors … very fortunate girl, I was … Professor Mead from Ngati Awa in Whakatane and Joe from Ngati Maru in Thames. I had teaching sections at Rongotai College, and I enjoyed being back at Victoria with some money, which I didn’t have the first time round, as I was on full salary for the year.

At the end of 1982 I was back to Central, and I was very sad to learn that Mr Foster was retiring. I spent two more terms at Central Hawke’s Bay, and in August I was appointed as HOD [Head of Department] English at Wellington East Girls’ College. It was a strange experience moving to a school where there was [were] strong political opinions, passionate feminists, and twenty-nine different ethnic groups. It was also somewhat unnerving that the Principal, Janice Campbell, had also been HOD English, and trust me, she watched everything I did carefully. It was a very busy four years.

In 1987 I returned to Hawke’s Bay as Assistant Principal of Hastings Girls’ High School. It was now a very different school to the one I had attended; I had attended 1964 to 1968. In my day the school was streamed and there were very few Pacifica students and about eighteen to twenty percent percent Maori students. In 1987 the school was fifty/fifty – fifty percent Pakeha and fifty percent Maori. It was also the year of Whakatu’s closure. Unemployment was twenty percent. The following year was the economic crash. I was shocked by the level of domestic violence and the difficulties faced by my students every day. It was a miracle that some of the students even got to school. Hawke’s Bay had a cheerful truancy officer called Bruce Chair. He was supposed to cover from Wairoa to Dannevirke. In reality he spent a lot of time in our parks around Hastings, and I did feel very sorry for him. And later, when in 1991 I got a Commonwealth Fellowship to the Institute of Education at London University and visited schools in London, I suddenly realised how important it is; you can’t make changes in kids’ lives if they don’t get to school. They have to attend on a regular basis.

We’ve done stupid things in this country; the old issue of attendance is a thorny cherry. It’s across four decades and possibly five decades, and it’s still there. And with Covid, with the lockdown – I know this from personal experience, ‘cause believe it or not I’m still doing some teaching – the attendance rates have slipped dreadfully, and that includes our area. We definitely need more help.

In the 1980s there were negative attitudes to school; but there still are, and those negative attitudes of course, become cyclical, because those people went on to have children and those negative attitudes have been passed on.

I have always seen the link between education and social mobility. I pay no heed to the Conservatives’ pride, social engineering. That’s all it is, it’s social engineering. I’m alarmed by the polarities of our society in New Zealand. The gap between rich and poor widens, home ownership is out of reach for about fifty percent of the population now, Covid 19 has not helped our truancy rates and we now lag behind OECD [Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development] countries in literacy, science and maths. Much is made of our curriculum, but to me it’s a vast amorphous sponge with few specifics to teachers – and I’m talking about primary schools now. There are nice buzz words like “self management” – gosh, I’m a scathing old cow – [chuckles] and though these buzz words have crept into the key competencies, all of them involve affective judgements; none of them can be tested. It’s all up to what the teacher thinks you’re like at self management, and few can be data driven. More of this at the end of my little talk.

To resume my career survey I completed a Masters in Linguistics and Education at London University, where I had two amazing tutors, Jagdish Gundara and Crispin Jones; one of them from the Punjab, a secular Seikh, and Crispin from Wales. My thesis was on the maintenance of minority language, and it was a comparison of Maori, Welsh, Irish and Gaelic. I visited twenty-four schools, from Eton and Cheltenham Ladies’ College, to Comprehensives in the middle of Glasgow and London. I visited schools who taught only in Welsh, Irish or Gaelic. It left me convinced that our pathway to Maori medium education is the right one, and I was immensely proud to be part of a bilingual class at Hastings Girls’ High School that had started in 1990. I’m very grateful to Jill Davidson for encouraging and supporting this class, and also for the opportunity to move into Art History and Classical Studies.

I had an Art History night class as well, which started in 1989 – some of them are here this evening. We started with twelve people – I called them the twelve apostles, We had to get twelve otherwise Barbara Mitchell would’ve had to fold the class; so we got our twelve, and when I left to go to Sacred Heart at the end of 1999 I had forty-eight in the class. I was very proud of that. And we completed a trip to Italy, as you’ll see in the Powerpoint presentation, in 1996. When I left Hastings Girls’ High School I had taught nine different subjects including … makes me laugh now … French, German and Horticulture. [Chuckles]

It was with some trepidation that I accepted a Principalship in a Church school … lot of thought went into that. I thought, ‘I’m far too old to change my ways and pretend I’m holy’, but never mind – don’t ever quote me on that. [Chuckles] I had friends in my Art History night class who would refer to me … one of them is now deceased, Louise Frost. God bless you, Louise, you used to say to me, “How are you, mother superior?” [Laughter] Scathing old Louise; loved Louise. I promised my trust board Chair I would give it at least five years. His name was Brian McKee; he was a really lovely man, and I stayed for fourteen. Sacred Heart College has eight hundred and twenty-five students; thirty percent were Maori and Pacifica, and there are at least another twenty ethnic groups; very interesting school.

I retired in 2014, but have had an interesting retirement. A very quick list for you – Principal of Gisborne Girls’ High School for six months; Principal of Pukehamoamoa [School] for six months; Principal of Wairoa College for six weeks; Te Reo Maori teacher at Iona College in 2018; Intermediate department teacher at Iona College for a month – nearly killed me, it was full time. [Chuckles] I thought, ‘Gosh, this is real teaching.’ Reliever at Iona; French teacher, last year it was, for the whole year at Sacred Heart, Napier in 2020, including teaching kids online with the Covid lockdown; scholarship class in Religious Education – Isobel Holm was going to try and make it tonight; lovely girl. Actually I was very proud of her, she got a scholarship for Woodford last year, and I was very proud of that, as was she. She’s not well, so she couldn’t make it tonight. And I have continued this year with that class, and I’m doing a bit of art, and I’m relieving for St John’s College and for Iona this year.

If you stay in education long enough the move into admin[istration] is inevitable, but it is my classroom work that still holds the big buzz for me. The faces of the students, the little things they tell you. There are bad memories, with two lovely sisters, just as an example – I won’t mention schools or even the area – beaten by their father with a shovel. There is poverty, incest and criminal offending, that you try to forget. But there are always moments that touch your heart forever. [Voice breaks] Did Thomas Moore give sound advice to Richard Rich? Is teaching the best profession? The answer for me is a resounding, “Yes”.

A couple of little snippets from last week – a lovely Tongan lad stayed to help me put the chairs up, and he told me he was off home to cook the family meal. He does this five nights a week because his mother works ‘til two in the morning. He is not feeling sorry for himself; he just wanted to tell someone. I’m old now, and I have to look away. I love their energy, their mischievous grins, their desire to do better.

The future should include a review of the curriculum, with better targets for primary schools or at least more specific details of what should completed in each year level; a better structure for Boards so schools don’t fall apart; a better structure than Tomorrow’s Schools left us with in 1990 – it is fine for higher decile schools; all very well for me with a Decile 7 school at Sacred Heart College where I had [chuckle] … talk about overkill … one engineer, three lawyers and two accountants on my Board. [Chuckles] You know, you would struggle to get that in other schools, and I’m not saying that that’s absolutely essential but certainly it does help; it really does help having that knowledge. An MOE [Ministry of Education] Board appointment, as we had in the old days, could assist this. Some schools need more help in the guidance area … a school social worker, an extra counsellor, a visiting teacher, an extra home liaison person. It is thirty-one years since Tomorrow’s Schools; it is time to look at governments’ leadership in our curriculum – probably time to take a fresh look at ERO [Education Review Office] too, and the role of teacher registration. We need better educated teachers. Finland made a Masters level degree mandatory [coughing] for all from early childhood right through to secondary, and that’s what I believe fundamentally we should do. We should indeed lift the bar.

So look, we’ll [?] into a few photos, ‘cause they’re always fun, [cough] and I hope it hasn’t been too gruelling for you. I hope you will be entertained by these photos, they’re rather cute. So forty-eight years it’s covered, ‘73 to 2021.

This is just a taste of what it was like at Matauranga, and I have had immense fun in the last four days going through my shed and I just can’t believe that I’m the kid that never throws anything out. [Chuckles] I think I said this on Facebook – some of you might’ve caught my comment, but I think I’m going to have to gift my garage to the nation. [Laughter]

This is Sally Rose, whose dad was the economist of the Reserve Bank of New Zealand – she was spinning in this photo, and that’s Matauranga. I taught music, I had a guitar group … that’s her brother, Mickey Rose. His brother is on Radio New Zealand. [A] lot of these kids went on to have interesting careers. My lovely, little, smiley guitar group – we’re looking at 1971 here. That’s Marie Bell, the founding teacher; that is my 6th Form class, 6B1, 1967, at Hastings Girls’ High School, and many of those people I’ve remained in contact to [with] – Neroli Boardman, Neroli Wilton as she was at school; Alison Finnigan, Janet Patmore … oh, sorry, that’s the Prefects, yeah, and we’ve got 6B1 coming.

That’s my first ever full class at Makoura College; they were lovely students. This boy here … you always remember things about kids … this is Peter Doyle. Peter Doyle bought beer to our barbecue [laughter] at the river, and I tore strips off him. [Chuckles] And he said, “Oh no, fair enough Miss, fair enough. No, I’ll take it home; take it home – put it in the boot of my car. No problem.” [Chuckles] It’s really funny the things you remember about kids; they gave me a beautiful tartan rug which my cats are still using at Te Awanga. It’s on a bed at Te Awanga and it’s lovely, and it’s stood the test of time. Oh, those Kaipoi tartan rugs!

Now, there’s Bertie McConnell who was a much loved teacher at Hastings Boys’ High School; if you ask students if they remember, many of them will remember Bertie. He took tramps; we all went on tramps in the Ruahines. And this is him with Miss Miller at the production of ‘Yeoman the Guard’, which is her last Gilbert and Sullivan production done in 1967, and it was a fantastic night and a great production. I just want to honour both of them because they were extraordinary people.

And 6B1 … that’s what I was calling the Prefects from the previous photo. There are two deceased members of this class. Many of them I’m still in contact with. This is a very important influence, I think drama is a wonderful thing to be a part of. This is Little Theatre, Hastings, and there’s Paul Holmes in the leading role, he’s Mr Bliss, and James Speight, who went on to have a career in television as Mrs Bliss. There’s Gary Knuckey – two of these people of course are deceased, Gary and Paul. There’s Paddy Twigg; there’s Teresa Woodham, who’s back living in Havelock North, and went on to have a career in acting; Eric Frickberg who went on to have a career in Radio New Zealand. And that’s moi … it was a disgusting frock, [chuckles] it was a 1920s flapper frock, and I’m the character Jackie Coriton who’s you know, sort of the 1920s equivalent of a dumb blonde, ‘cept I wasn’t blonde.

This is 4-5, this is a group that I took around Gisborne and the East Coast, Tairawhiti. That’s my second form class and they were great fun, and some of them I’m in contact with on Facebook now. That’s my very first ever prize giving [chuckle] at Makoura College and we’re just assembled in my classroom waiting to be called into the hall. That’s my third one before I went overseas; I won’t bore you with all of them. This lad here though, is an outstanding musician, and mandolin and fiddle and saxophone player, and plays in groups in Ireland, and lives in Ireland now.

Lovely Central Hawke’s Bay College, this is my form class in the year that I was long term relieving there … lovely group. It’s not the nightmare English class that I inherited from Mr Primmer – they were called 5K, [chuckle] and they were awful. This form were lovely. And that’s Puke Kaihoe performing at Otukou Pa on the slopes of Lake Rotoaira. And that is Te Rangi Kauia Tipene-Stevenson and Cath Caskey; they’re actually sitting in the sun waiting for their strawberries and cream. Where’s Mrs Foster?

Mrs Foster: Here I am.

Lisl: Rob did that so nicely, always the strawberries and cream and that’s what they’re about to have. And I took their photograph of them sitting in the sun. That’s 1983 when I came back from Wellington, and this is my next form class when I came back. That’s 1979 – I’d been appointed as acting head of English because Ray Miller was away in England.

Puke Kaihoe … very big Maori group, that’s the group we took to Rotoaira. And this is very special and is a great credit to Mr Foster. He allowed us to have a committee and we got this meeting house built. It’s called Te Kupenga a Te Huki. This was a wonderful day, Mr Foster is wearing his gown; this is him here. Truby Mihaere, Tim Winharris who was the Board chair at the time, Canon Wi Huata is the Anglican minister who’s presiding. So the lad who was our Chair of the committee – I was just a member of that committee – he is now Principal of Kapiti College. His name is Tony Kane … really lovely man, taught English and History.

And nice to honour some parents – that’s Ata Allen who is from Takapau, at the powhiri; and May Thompson. Both of them are now deceased And Helen Hape … also deceased … I was to meet again later at Hastings Girls’ High School where she was a really, really hard working parent of the PTFA. [Parents Teachers & Friends Association] And here she was helping with Central Hawke’s Bay College. Truby Mihaere, there he is; that’s his marae, and that’s his portrait that [which] hangs in the meeting house at Pukehou. Steven Hepare was our kaea for Puke Kaihoe at Central Hawke’s Bay College. Michael Hollings … I went to Rarotonga with Kahungunu ki Wairarapa – that’s a mistake, it should be Ngati Kahungunu ki te Wairarapa. It was great fun, it was an exhausting seven days, but that’s Michael; he is now the CEO of Te Kura in Wellington.

Wellington East Girls’ College – that’s what we all looked like. This is moi here in the front row, and Janice Campbell was the Principal; and that’s my English Department – really outstanding people, many of whom I’m still in contact with. While I was at Wellington East Girls’ College I produced ‘Not the Royal Wedding’, because Sarah Ferguson had just married Prince Andrew. And we had an acting Principal – Janice had gone into the Inspectorate, and because Joyce Wilson had red hair, I said, “Joyce, would you mind being, you know, Sarah?” And so I married her off to a junior science teacher called David Cole, who looked vaguely like Andrew. And of course the kids loved it, and we raised money for the Police launch; they needed a new Police launch – the ‘Lady Elizabeth’. So it did have a serious purpose behind it as well. And [the] geography teacher’s a very severe woman … [shouldn’t] say that, really, but you know, a very correct woman – was the moderator of the Church of Scotland. [Chuckles] I thought it was rather good. [Chuckles] And the Archbishop of Canterbury, and so on it goes … But it was a fantastic day, and we flew the bride and groom off – my friend, Peter Button, who is also sadly now deceased – came and landed his helicopter and took them away to the airport. [Laughter] It was brilliant. You couldn’t do that now, somebody’d go, “Health and safety”, and it would kill everything. That’s me; my role was Richard Dimbleby for the BBC – wrote all those articles, as you do – and I’m drinking champagne and I’m very glad it’s over, ‘cause that’s at the end of the run. [Chuckles]

Hastings Girls’ High School I returned to in 1987, and I just want to say what [background voice] fabulous taongas exist in our places, you know, that we should awhi [cherish] and look after. And one is a very beautiful mural which I sat under as a child having my education there. It’s done by Jeff Fuller – [I] think Hawke’s Bay was very lucky to have an artist of Jeff Fuller’s calibre – and if you own a Jeff Fuller painting you’re a very lucky person. [Cough] This is a fabulous mural; it’s a whole lot of famous women, and it’s on the back wall of the Assembly Hall. He was the art teacher at the time and did a fantastic job doing that. And good on Miss Miller for having it commissioned and done.

1990 for me was a memorable year ‘cause I bought my house at Te Awanga which I still live in, but 1993 was the women’s suffrage year, and we did have a lot of fun. This is Norris Kenwright who was deputy Principal, and Jill Davidson; and there’s a parent, Mrs Roughton, who’s here in the gig. And I borrowed her horse, and Miss Davidson arrived in the gig, and I rode behind the gig – as is appropriate for an assistant Principal – on the extra horse. So it was great fun. So Hastings Girls’ was a very lively place, and I believe as I’ll tell you in a minute, a very innovative place as well.

I took on Art History; some of my trippers are here tonight; we had a fabulous time. Sadly, some of the people in the photo are now deceased. I’d like to acknowledge Patsy Burns who was really helpful on the trip, ‘cause Patsy had fluent Italian and she was really fabulous. It was a wonderful trip to Italy … three weeks around Italy. That’s the newspaper clipping of the day – see, I really do keep everything … I mean everything. [Chuckles]

When I say innovation – you’ll have heard about the new History curriculum – there’s a lot of debate about the History curriculum – and we were doing that before anybody thought of changing it. We had a subject called Liberal Studies, and here is Kerrin Stafford from my Liberal Studies class. It was a Year 12 subject; she’s standing in a kumara pit out on Bill Shaw’s property. It’s called Tiromoana, and it is named after the pa site which has been there for at least a thousand years, six hundred of which it was inhabited. It’s a fantastic place. So this is what we have to get kids excited about, that we have our own history; we have both Maori and Pakeha history, which is riveting … really, really interesting.

1988 I had a Woolf Fisher Award; I travelled to Derby in Western Australia, visited Mowanjum which is an Aboriginal community. Again, it was the whole bilingual thing, I’m interested in the [cough] maintenance of minority languages.

This is 1991 – I was a Fellow at the Institute of Education at the University of London, and I gave a speech. I was very nervous on that day; this is taken before I delivered the speech. [Cough] A big board table which had about twenty-five professors sitting around it, and that’s the poster for the speech for the day. That’s Dublin in 1991, Art History trips – I worked out, sitting there quietly at home counting them up – I did over twenty trips while I was at Hastings Girls’, so all sorts of trips, some I won’t bore you with. Some Art History Classical Studies and I think, Geraldine, you came on a Classical Studies trip to Wellington with us which was really great. I’d like to acknowledge Geraldine, she was very encouraging of me to you know, apply for the job. I was very nervous about applying for a job in a church school. She was very encouraging, and that’s what we need in our life, we need people who are encouraging. And that’s what kids need in the classroom, too – people who are encouraging.

That’s my farewell. And I’ve only put this in here not to be an ‘I, me’ person, but you know, wonderful women … Jean Kelt and Miss Millar, now deceased of course, but they were really … we’re so lucky as a community in Hastings to’ve had those people, and to have had their commitment.

This is Valerie Lawson who is a Queens Service Order member, and she did twenty years – imagine following somebody like that! Must’ve been mad to appoint me. But this is my powhiri at Sacred Heart Lower Hutt. Valerie and I are very good friends; she’s in her eighties now. She’s a wonderful person and I learned a lot from her.

Mentors … Janice Campbell, very pleased Janice could come; she wasn’t very well at the time but she attended my powhiri. And that’s Noel Scott who is now deceased; he became of course, a Member of Parliament and Associate Minister of Education under David Lange, and he was my old Principal from Makoura College. [I’d] like to acknowledge Jane Barrett-Lennard who was assistant Principal at Makoura College. She was a mentor and friend; this is her at Mary Seddon’s wake in about 2001. Mary Seddon and she had taught together at Samuel Marsden [coughing] Collegiate College. And I also acknowledge the support of Win Penman, Hillary College and the Ministry of Education – again, great women who support you and help you on your way through life and your career.

I just put this in because I just thought it was so funny … these are my new staff. They look quite pleased to see a new person, [chuckle] and they’re smiling which is a good sign. And this is from my powhiri, but the really gas thing was, this girl grew up four houses and a block of shops away from me in Stortford Lodge. Her dad was Mr Gibson who had an engineering shop in King Street, and there were from memory, two boys – Donald ended up as a teacher at Frimley, and Jenny was a science teacher at my school, a very good one. Her name was Pritchard now, Jenny Pritchard. She lives on the Kapiti Coast. So it was very funny for me.

[The] Earl of Wessex came to visit us; we had over two hundred students who got Duke of Edinburgh Awards every year, and because we had the most in New Zealand we were accorded a visit by ourselves. Other schools had to group together, and they had another meeting at St Pat’s Town. [St Patrick’s College Wellington] But we got our very own visit from Prince Edward which was great fun, and that’s Valerie and I wearing Tokelauan headgear.

This lady here is Sister Marie Ignatius, and she is still alive at a hundred and two, and as sharp as a tack. She is really sharp, and she lives in Auckland – she’s a great lady. And Sister Mary Jane [?Devalwar?] and I.

I’ve done some really funny things in teaching; this is me teaching kids to ride, and these kids are from Saint Catalina in Japan, and you can see this girl’s got a horse with what we call a hard mouth – not doing the thing with the bit very well – and she’s trying [chuckle] to pull the head up; and I’m going, “Nah, that’s not going to work for you. Not going to work, trust me – it won’t work.”

And this is France in 2006, another trip that I ran. Really grateful to my Art History class – we wouldn’t have got it off the ground if it had’ve just been Sacred Heart Schools, for the Principals and the Directors of Religious Studies; we’d never’ve got it off the ground.

We’ve got lots of Hastings people to come – some are here tonight – Elizabeth Carr who’s in the photo, and Graeme Pilgrim … lovely man who was the vicar at St Matthew’s. So we had a lovely trip around France; that was also a three week trip. Here they are at Moissac which is a beautiful town on the pilgrimage trail to Santiago de Compostela.

And this is Jordan. I did a trip with my poor, very long suffering PA. [Personal assistant] This is Sue Eastwood – she said, “You’re going where?” And moi – in that case we were in Petra in Jordan, and I came back and wrote a book. I didn’t write the book ‘til 2013; I had some time off to write it – ‘Mustard Seed and Pomegranates’.

And I’d like to honour also Sister Moira Ross; that was Advent carols at my place, we always had great fun … not boring being a nun, I discovered. [Chuckles] This is me at a Polish mass we had – I just wanted to illustrate the fact that we had a lot of ethnic groups – wonderful girls; beautiful dancers – Polish dancers are just exquisite. You can see where we got the you know, mazurka and the polka and so on from. And just fantastic girls, really great.

And that’s Sacred Heart feast day. [I’d] like to honour Ruth Clitheroe who has passed away – she had ovarian cancer. She was my assistant Principal; and Jenny Muirs, Michelle [?] and Alison Page were my other two DPs [Deputy Principals] that [whom] I worked with while I was there. They’re still very much alive.

This is only the centre panel of a big long [inaudible] I’ve got at home on my wall of the college; we had the whole college photographed. This building here has now been demolished. It was called Mission House, and it’s been demolished because of earthquake regulations. At vast expense they’re building a new one.

Principal of Gisborne Girls’ [High School] … there they are there. That’s their Maori group and choir in Napier. They were visiting Napier; there they are there, practising. Gisborne Girls’ ANZAC Day – they have a military academy as part of the school.

Principal of Pukehamoamoa – that was the day we painted the swimming pool. I thought, ‘God, there’s more to being a primary Principal than meets the eye!’ [Chuckles]

Sorry, I’ll go back because they’re lovely little faces – Bridget Lowry, and I’ve forgotten this dear little boy’s name but that was Pets day, where they all bring their pets … God help us! [Chuckles] I can remember saying, “Darling, wouldn’t it be a good idea to move the fox terriers from the lambs?” [Laughter]

Principal of Wairoa College; it was ANZAC Day. That again is my PA from Makoura … very kindly came to help me while I was there. I’m wearing my Dad’s medals because it’s ANZAC Day. Teacher of Te Reo Maori at Iona College. This is a Maori Language Assembly that my girls ran, and did a really good job with.

Teaching at a training college in the South Sudan in 2018 … thought I was going to die. I thought, ‘You silly old bitch, you’ve finally bitten off more than you can chew.’ [Chuckles] I was sitting here just out of Juba – this is a big mass that I was attending – and it was forty-five degrees [celcius]. It was ninety-five percent humidity, and I thought, ‘I’m going to die here … never mind.’ [Chuckles] And this is me with my classes, and [?] who’s a Dinka, and Opuku who’s an Acholi, who mainly are in Uganda but there’s a few Acholi in South Sudan as well. I met David Shearer while I was there; a lot of very committed people. How I got to go there was because one of our Sisters was the Principal of the Teachers’ College.

Andrew Morris – I visited on the way home as you do – just popped into Dubai to see a student from Hastings Boys’ High School. Geraldine had been responsible for a very good arrangement where our girls went to have Economics at Boys’ High ‘cause we didn’t have an Economics teacher, as [and] their boys came and did Art History and Classics with me. Andrew got a scholarship … fantastic boy, and he’s now a lawyer in Dubai, and his parents still live here in Havelock North.

Intermediate teacher, Iona College; and my final class, my French class at Sacred Heart Napier last year. And this year I’m at Woodford [House] doing the RE, [religious education] and that’s a scholarship class; and a little bit of relieving. And that’s pretty much me, really.

Maori chant.


I think you’ve probably picked up that Lisl has the wonderful value of having a photographic memory, and she just never fails to amaze you because she remembers. I’ve realised why people love history – because they remember it, and the rest of us forget.

And it was bang on fifty minutes, Joyce Barry. It was fabulous.

But wasn’t that just the most fantastic talk? [Applause]

I’m going to call on Cynthia Bowers. [Phone ringing] You’re going to thank Lisl tonight, and I’d like to call you forward, Cynthia.

Cynthia Bowers: Lisl, where do we start? That was the most amazing presentation; thank you. Your passion [and] some of the very, very bold decisions that you’ve made over the years just blew me away really, and the social commentary that went with it as well was incredibly interesting. Fascinated by your retirement. [Laughter]

Lisl: It’s been a bit busy really …

Cynthia: As someone who is struggling to retire myself, you know, I think your idea of retirement seems just right to me. [Laughter] So thank you so much; this is the second time you’ve spoken to us here … third is it? But look, the effort you put into these presentations and the way that you enthrall us and entertain us is second to none, so on behalf of all of us I’d just like to thank you sincerely. You’ve obviously spent a lot of time going through your garage and putting the presentation together, and it’s absolutely much appreciated.

Lisl: Yes, the mice’ve had a hurry along. [Laughter]

Cynthia: Would you all join me in thanking Lisl …

Thanks, Cynthia, that’s wonderful. Was [were] there any questions?

Question: If you were in government at the moment and you were asked for some recommendations, what would they be?

Lisl: Mmm … well, I think, you know, we do have to do something about our … I think some very good things have been done, like, you can’t learn if you’re hungry. And there are kids in our schools that are hungry, and I think the lunches in schools has been wonderful, so some really good things are being done. But you know, much more has to be done that really isn’t even educational, it’s social. It’s to uplift people and help people. You know, that whole area of getting kids to school, making sure that there’s a backup. [Phone sounds] You know, we need those sort of support mechanisms, especially in the cities you know, where there are people struggling; although I shouldn’t say that ‘cause an area that troubles me deeply is Northland. Northland is just a mess. It’s awash with methamphetamine and the schools are [coughing] really struggling. Colleagues who sat on the Teachers Council … Geraldine served on it for much longer than I did, but you know, colleagues who served with it are just burnt out. These are lovely Principals from secondary schools in Northland, you know … so really bad social problems. We’ve got to somehow get our head[s] around addressing this I think, for a better society, for a better New Zealand. And it’s not social engineering. It’s just simply what you do if you consider your country a family; you don’t want to have people who fall by the wayside.

Its quite a sobering note to finish on, isn’t it, because it’s quite right. And it is worldwide to some extent too, I realise that.

Lisl: And actually I’m a tough old bird, so I don’t go down into psycho-babble. [Laughter] I’ve never been into psycho-babble, I’m not a psycho-babble girl, but I do care about kids and I do want those kids who are struggling to have help and be uplifted. It’s all about service to me, and loyalty to family. [Background chatter]

Question: We didn’t hear any detail about your classes, but I just wonder if you saw people at the back of the class talking when you were trying to teach them something, what you did, because I taught at Lindisfarne in 1964, my only year as a teacher, but when I saw people distracted by something else I didn’t want to stop the lesson on the blackboard so I just fired chalk at them. [Laughter] And I was quite accurate.

Lisl: You aren’t allowed to do that now, health and safety. [Laughter]

Reply: A few guys have told me – I’ve run into them in the last two or three years – they’ve told me they haven’t forgotten. [Laughter]

Question: How do you deal with people at the back of the class who are distracted?

Lisl: Well essentially … actually it is quite easy because, if you remember that children actually want order and they want routine in their lives … and mothers who have babies know that. You bring up a baby with a sensible routine, which sadly seems to have gone down the river with a lot of our young mums, but if you do that, you know, it’s just half the battle won. And I don’t think anybody would’ve talked in my classes would they? [Laughter] Comment: Too scared.

Lisl: I think I got that from my dad, you know. He was a military man, and I don’t think there is anything wrong with a little bit of fear, but you don’t dare say that any more ‘cause we’re all so bloody PC [politically correct] now, which is such a shame. I think, ‘Good on you’, for the chalk. [Chuckles] I never used chalk, but I did have some very good verbals [laughter] ‘cause I’m quite good with my tongue. [Laughter]

That’s fantastic. Thanks, thanks, thanks again, that was just wonderful, Lisl, just wonderful.


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Landmarks Talk 8 June 2021

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