Tag: teaching

The Danger of a Single Story

Last year I taught Chimimanda Ngozi Adichie’s debut novel Purple Hibiscus to my Year 12 English class. This was initially met with resistance. There were words in Igbo, they didn’t understand what they meant, it didn’t have a sequel, it wasn’t set in a dystopian wasteland, I hadn’t taught a lot of them before and they wanted to push my limits. I asked them how many had read a book that wasn’t written by a white person before. I was met with shocked and silent stares, and only a couple of students put up their hands. I tried to explain the importance of reading a whole range of authors, of genres, of stories. It is in doing this we can move beyond a chiched understanding of the world, and begin to understand what is is really like to walk in someone else’s shoes. I decided I was not doing this idea justice. Who am I, a white middle classed woman, to tell a class of Samoan, Tongan, Maori, Croatian, Indian and Pakeha students this? So we watched this. It is amazing.

So when my friend Grace asked me if I wanted to go and see Adichie in conversation with David Eggers, I almost melted with excitement. I get to see her talk for real! I will let you know how she is. Amazing, no doubt.

If you want to read anything by her, she has written Purple Hibiscus, Half of a Yellow Sun and Americanah. And yes, she is the one that is sampled on that Beyonce song.

Enjoy.

How Things Turn Out

I made the switch from working in museums and taught English at a girl’s school in Auckland for the last two years. It was the most rewarding, energising, and exhausting thing I have ever done. My students challenged me, frustrated me and amazed me every day. When I left, the tears, kind words and hugs were overwhelming and I knew I had found the career that I would continue for the rest of my life. I think about my students all the time and wonder how they are going, what they are reading and whether they are continuing to grow into the incredible young women I know they are.

I believe in education to expand student’s minds, they should ask questions and say when they don’t agree with something. I don’t think they should be consumed by rules and rote learning. So when I was offered a job at a school here, I thought long and hard, about the school itself and my very bizarre interview in which I was asked nothing about my teaching practice, and decided no. It was not for me.  I didn’t want to settle for a school which did not allow me to teach the way I teach and put the emphasis on the wrong things.

You never know where life will lead next. For me, it is to beautifully designed skin care. I will be working at Aesop. Not what I initially planned for living and working in this country, but I think it is going to be exciting. Their products are amazing, the design, beautiful and the other people that work for the company seem so lovely and friendly.

I start tomorrow so decided to treat myself and splash out for a hair cut so I’m looking good for my first day at work. I now have hair of varying lengths, a short and crooked fringe and a significantly lighter wallet. I am deeply unimpressed by my first American haircut. And Ollie is in China this week for work so I couldn’t even come home to rant at him about it.

But when I got home there was a beautiful book waiting for me, a delivery from a special friend far away. And so I sat down to write a blog post on things never quite being how you expect them to be. And how that isn’t such a bad thing.