Please Sir - Er - Miss... Lady Teachers 1973
(Note - the original photographs that accompanied this article were printed too poorly to scan. Does any one have scans of photographs of the teachers mentioned? If so, please e-mail them to firstname.lastname@example.org)
Ab few years ago, the Staff Room of the School was infiltrated by the feminine element, and it has not been the same since. It started, of course, with the English Department, when mini-skirted and diminutive Mrs. Lohr, a student teacher and wife of an Old Gaytonian, made a great impact on the Sixth Form. Strong, bristly fifth formers were heard to cry, "Why can't we have a student?" She was followed by New Zealander Miss K. Du Fresne, and by Mrs. Chaloner and Mrs. Grange in the French Department.
Now there are five on the Staff, and the patriarchy has found itself somewhat disturbed.
How did our five ladies come to teach here? Their reasons for applying for a post at this school seemed to be determined by geographical factors rather than the thought of greatness being lowered upon their fair heads. It indeed took some time for them to be accepted. The Staff Room still bears resemblance to a flat lived in by a bachelor who has lost the keys to all his cupboards: last year's Times serves as a carpet and some interesting cultures are preserved in old coffee cups; but now tidyness, cleanliness and the occasional bowl of flowers are seen to be invading the male stronghold. Not all the men on the staff noticed the valiant work put in by Miss Hughes in the holidays in providing new curtains and cushions and in painting the doors and notice boards. Perhaps they never read the notices anyway.
Has the traditional masculinity of Harrow County presented any problems for the ladies? Miss Hughes, whose chief claim to sporting fame is that she is a qualified riding instructress, thought that she would have to talk about football to the boys: she was surprised to find that some of them are quite human.
One teacher recalled a meeting with parents, when she remarked that their som was easily distracted; the father, glancing at her legs, remarked in return that he could see why. Mrs. Rogers, who has always taught in boys' schools, finds the men to be quite friendly and chivalrous, although she deplores the bachelor shabbiness of the establishment. Miss Hughes claims to have received three definite proposals: none of these was from the Staff. Miss Kast, who belongs to a family of teachers, finds the human element still present in the school (in contrast to the French education system, which tends to be more scientific and literary). She finds the male staff and the older boys to be courteous but criticizes the indiscipline and rudeness of some of the younger boys: this she attributes to the home rather than to any shortcomings on the part of the School.
Mrs. Landon, who spent a year doing research on anti-bacterials before coming here, likes teaching in a grammar school because of the satisfaction of teaching her own subject to a high level. She remarks that she prefers working with men because in her subject, chemistry, men seem to possess a traditional monopoly of interest.
Finally, Miss Pullen, our new Art mistress, whoenjoys camping and motor racing, prefers to teach in a mixed school, although she likes the atmosphere here. Indfeed, most of our ladies agree that the atmosphere of the School is more realistic with the advent of female teachers. All our ladies are against single-sex education on principle, and believe that our boys lose out on the social side, as co-education leads to greater maturity; they feel that the presence of girls would lead to less vandalism, and would perhaps make the boys work harder. Possibly, one lady thought, if there were girls here the blackboards might even be painted.
So what are the idiosyncrasies of the situation as far as our ladies are concerned? They must feel slightly awkward every time that they enter the "Masters' Common Room". Also, circulated notes are addressed to "Form Masters"; accepting this latter situation as just a quirk of tradition, one of our ladies recently spent a rather embarrassing time at what she discovered was to be a sex education talk to the boys in her year.
What effect have these ladies had upon the chauvinist Ivory Tower of the Common Room? Mr. Anderson now has to make it public that he is about to change into his RAF uniform in the Art Stock Room; and one aged patriarch was heard to mutter, "What female Staff?"
Having ladies in the building does not always bring sunshine and light, though. Here is an (advisedly) anonymous note from a suffering pupil:
Like most people, I have nothing against women teachers; it's just that they take a little getting used to. It's the maternal instinct, their need to organise. They approach teaching from the wrong angle; they try to indoctrinate. Force-feeding techniques don't work, as we've shown them.
Now a male teacher, he hasn't got this problem. He knows how to communicate with his pupils, in a nice, gentle, leisurely way, in which no-one is overstressed. That's where we men win overr women every time; we understand the subtlety of human nature!
There have, of course, been ladies in the building long before the lady teachers referred to above. In both World Wars ladies were employed here on the Staff, and for many years the Office, and of course the Canteen, have been dominated by ladies who might well, one feels, have done very well in the classroom. We are indebted, too, to the Cleaning Ladies, who twice daily go about their errands of mercy, rescuing floors and desks from disgraceful squalor. ("May", the earth-mother of the 'A' Corridor, has twice been featured in GAYTONIAN; regrettably she intends to retire this year.)
The Clerical Ladies (not part of Mr. Cole's Department, as their name might suggest) slave away in a tiny cabin, dark and confined. Known, after a recent ITV programme, as "Beryl's Lot", they are a charming and essential part of our daily lives. Quite convinced that all schoolmasters are either mad or idle, and that al schoolboys are bleeding, broke or boorish, they remain cheerful and continue to minister to every need, turning their cabin into hospital, confessional or Complaints Bureau as needed. Of the four ladies, Mrs. Baul types the Head's correspondence, including the all-important UCCA forms: intending University Scholars should leave their parting gifts on the table to the right of the door. Mrs. Moss and Mrs. Gibbons work part-time at essential tasks like collecting dinner money from those who have any, duplicating exam papers "wanted for next period, please," and answering telephone calls from anxious mums, whose sons have either forgotten to take their Kit-Kat snack or taken the Kit-E-Kat by mistake.
Ruling over this team is Mrs. Chase, who has now been at Harrow County for ten years. Ever since she arrived, and particularly since she took over from Mr. Atkins as School Secretary, she has won the hearts of successive generations of boys and Staff. More than any other person -- though she would deny this furiously and scathingly -- she is perhaps responsible for the smooth running of the establishment, and for maintaining a happy atmosphere at Gayton Road.
Source: Gaytonian, 1973