School Inspectors and other visitors
The tiny one-teacher school I attended for my primary education was quite isolated. We could see just one house, and that was more than a kilometre away, across cleared cultivation paddocks where there was very little activity for most of the year. The other farmhouses were hidden behind trees, but none were closer than 2 kilometres. There was a main road nearby, but that was a couple of hundred metres from the front fence. During the school day, between 9.30 and 3.30, we lived in a little bubble, seemingly isolated from the world.
Any visitors to the school were welcome breaks in our routine, and we were all very interested to meet them. An infrequent visitor, but one I remember well, was the School Inspector.
He (never a woman, unheard of in those days for a woman to hold such a senior position) would arrive during the morning, driving alone in his car. That immediately made him different, most of our visitors would be the parents of a pupil, Mum and Dad together in the car. But this man was formally dressed, not in the working clothes our farming fathers wore. And he carried a small case (a ‘port’ in Qld language). He was clearly someone important.
Our teacher met him at the door, and allowed him to sit at the desk, where none of us ever sat. The older pupils had seen this before, and recognized that this was the Inspector, and understood why today the teacher was more careful in his dress, and also keen that we should be neat and tidy before we started school at 9.30am.
As I remember, the Inspector took each class through a number of exercises, like reading aloud, reciting our ‘times tables’, doing mental arithmetic, or testing our spelling. We did our best, but there was always a range of abilities even in a small school, and some of us did not shine. That made our teacher look worried. Our visitor spent the lunch hour in the school building with the teacher, and left soon after.
Many pupils and their parents thought that the pupils were being inspected for their behavior, and knowledge. Only later did they understand that it was the teacher who was being examined, to see if he was teaching the subjects laid down by the Education Department, keeping the appropriate records, and generally performing as the Inspector believed he should. A bad report could affect his future career. No wonder our teachers were anxious on the day the School Inspector appeared.
Another unusual visitor was someone to give us Religious Instruction.
As our school was about 15 kilometres from the town, we were not close to any churches. As well as that, most of the farming families were not really church-goers. I guess most of us had very little knowledge of the Bible or the stories it contained. An RI instructor who told new stories, had brightly-coloured pictures to illustrate them, was a real highlight in our day. I remember one who brought a felt-board, and invited us to place cut-out figures on it, to be the characters in the particular story he was telling.
Such a visit did not happen very often, it depended on who was the resident minister in the town, and whether he had the time or inclination to spend the day on the road visiting several little schools, whose pupils he might never see again. This was a time when members of the Roman Catholic faith were forbidden to have any contact with Protestant clergy, so it was fortunate that we did not have Catholic pupils in the school when the ministers visited. On the other hand, we did have a family whose parents objected to any RI instruction at all, so our teacher had to sit with their children in the lunch-shed during this time.
One other visitor stands out, but I was very young, and my memories are hazy. At least once the School Dentist visited. All I can remember about that, is his drill was driven by his feet, pedalling furiously below the chair. Perhaps I escaped the drill that time.