With Lois George
How long have you been a Builder at Makor Hayim?
I joined the community of Hampstead Reform Jewish Community 39 years ago. It then became Shir Hayim and is now Makor Hayim.
How have you seen the community change over the last couple of years with the coming together of Shir Hayim and Willesden Minyan?
The community has doubled in size in the last couple of years with many younger people, family groups as well as more mature members. It felt like we were an old established tree and have been invigorated by these new Builders who I hope will be actively involved in supporting the community, even when the support work is mundane but still needs to be done.
Tell us about your work as a teacher
Teaching has been the second love of my life after my husband, David. When I was 15, I heard an impassioned speaker, a lady called Mrs Peters. She was opening a school for children on the autistic continuum. I can still hear her saying, "I have 4 spaces to offer and over 200 parents willing to move homes if I could offer their child a place. Do I offer a place to a child of 14 as this will be their last chance for education, or do I offer it to a 5 year old who lays on the floor and screams, only eating by gnawing at bones?”. I knew then that I would become a teacher and whilst still at school, during the holidays I would get my dad to drive me to Mrs Peter's school and help with the children. When Mrs Peters found out I planned to train as teacher, she stood in front of me saying "when you are trained, do not come and work in a special school. You have to teach in mainstream schools for at least 4 years so you know where you are aiming for with our children'.
I trained, then went to work in a Secondary school in Ponders End where my timetable changed every Monday morning for the first 4 weeks and the deputy head saw me arrive at 7am ready to banda (carbon copying!) off every hand written worksheet I needed. I had to beg for exercise books and writing equipment from other departments as I was in the role of Head of Modern Languages and they threw in European Studies as a bonus. So all funding was being kept for the new person who started in January. I was there for one term and I bought my own textbooks to create each lesson.
My next school was a very large comprehensive of 1500 pupils in Edmonton. I spent many happy years there. The lower school was one side of the North Circular and the upper school on the other. The staff I made friends with are still close friends today. The children were fabulous. I ran lunch clubs with other teachers - twice a week was knitting club and twice a week was gardening club and both were open to all. In the summer the smell of warm tomatoes, cucumbers, grapes, lettuces and more on children's desks after lunch was lovely and they were so proud.
There were challenges. One afternoon one of my form brought an air rifle into our double English lesson, marched up and down shouting. After locking it in a cupboard after he reluctantly handed it over, I asked the deputy head to call the parents and we all met with the boy concerned who wanted to deal with his sisters boyfriend after school. The issue was resolved.
It was hard work with 400 books to mark each week and with 2 buses to get to and from school. I arrived early, left late and worked in any spare time possible. I had extra subjects added to my timetable every year, as did everyone, so the timetable was covered. I was comfortable when I was asked to work with the 'special needs children'. Some teachers did not find this fulfilling but I was happy to support any child to make their learning a positive experience. If one method of teaching did not work, I found another way. Behaviour improved as they achieved more and became able to show their true selves. I knew I needed to move back into the special needs sector.
I moved to another borough in the 1980s to be the Head of Infants in a school for children exhibiting Emotional and Behavioural difficulties - as it was then called. It was a primary school but there were teenagers there up to 16. Every child who came to the school joined my class for a while. The school was in a 3 storey house and basement, there were 4 classrooms, a woodwork room, the kitchen and dining room in the basement. The caretaker lived on the top floor and I remember arriving one morning to be greeted with the words 'We've been hit by lightening, if anyone sees moving walls or ceilings shout a warning and we must all get out!"
Wanting to help reduce children coming into Special Education, I trained at the Institute of Education and was an advisor in an Emotional Behaviour Difficulties team. I was linked to 33 schools and designed strategies to help a child react/respond differently/positively.
I loved teaching, so after 27 years I decided to go back into hands-on teaching, doing the work I trained others to do to support 1:1 children in mainstream - peripatetic. I worked in 3 schools each week and worked with hundreds of children in mainstream education and supported staff and parents. I believe that children get one chance at childhood and it needs to be as positive and as happy as possible and my role was to help them do that at school.
Do you have any hobbies?
I love gardening and truly believe I'm the caretaker of my garden. I won an award for being the most environmentally friendly garden in Camden several years ago! I love walking with David, visiting Heritage and National Trust places, sewing, drawing and sketching and spending time with family and friends.
Where are you most happiest?
With those I love, wherever we are, is ok.
Why did you volunteer to be a Trustee/the Treasurer at Makor Hayim?
I've been on the Council/Trustee since 2003. I felt that if members didn't step up, then nothing gets done and the community suffers, so I volunteered to be the Treasurer at a Community Meeting when nobody else did. It is a privilege to support and help Makor Hayim in this voluntary role. I really care about the people and want to see the community build on it's past roots, and to see it grow and flourish in the future.