Sit up straight, the teacher's here
A theatrical caning set the tone for Clyde School pupils re-enacting a typical 1863 school day.
The school's role play is part of its 150th anniversary being celebrated this weekend.
Rachel Checketts, from the Central Stories Museum and Art Gallery in Alexandra, played the part of "Miss Williams" - a strict, tight-lipped teacher who commanded her pupils' undivided attention and obedience.
"Stand up boy", she instructed one pupil during an arithmetic lesson, "how many shillings in a pound?"
Ester Sharman, 10, who sat obediently at her desk learning the lesson, said after class "Miss Williams" was strict and "freaked her out a little bit", but she enjoyed the lessons, particularly learning handwriting skills.
"She told us to keep the pencil on the paper when you are writing a word and not to take it off."
Left-handers were made to sit on their left hand and try to write with their right, she said.
"I am right-handed so that's good. Some kids were quite scared and the class was really quiet. She said if you talked you would get the strap. We were made to say a prayer at the start."
Principal Doug White said the day started with a "very formal assembly" which involved the "theatrical caning" of a boy who repeatedly put his hands in his pockets which set the tone and "put the fear of God" into the children.
"I think there is nothing like role-playing to let kids appreciate how schooling has changed in 150 years.
"Rachel is very skilled at that - she doesn't break from the role which is great. There is a certain belief she really is "Miss Williams".
In between lessons, the children played games including hopscotch and marbles. While the children had to adjust to a strict day of learning, teachers were also struggling to pretend to be a typical 1863 teacher, he said.
"It actually takes a bit of effort not to show your personality. That stern awful approach makes you hide the teacher side of you which often is the way you connect with the kids.
"What interested me was after they found gold here - within a year they had built a hospital and school of 60-odd kids. Before that there was nothing here.
The miners valued those social services quite highly. According to records they were quite educated people who wanted that in place."
- © Fairfax NZ News
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