All’s not necessarily well in the classroom even when it ends well, writes Dean Ashenden in Inside Story.
Anyone who has taught has regrets, and a student I’ll call Frank Gagliado is one of mine. Frank was one of my students at Salisbury North Primary School in the dumping grounds north of Adelaide, in 1964. He was ten years old, badly overweight, sweet-natured and clearly as thick as two short planks. He stumbled over his words and sometimes nodded off in the afternoon sun, always tired from hours of working before school in the family market garden. What could you do? Frank couldn’t spell, couldn’t write, and was as slow to understand as he was desperate to try.
I would’ve remembered Frank even if I never saw him again, but I did see him again. Twenty years after I left Salisbury North Primary School a newspaper paid me to get my former students together again and see what had become of them. I discovered that Frank was now Francesco Gagliado, with a university degree and a postgrad diploma to his name. I remember you kindly, he told me. He had gone on not letting teachers like me get him down, defying the teachers who didn’t want him taking up space in the academic stream as well as parents who wanted him to work in the family business, battling his weight fluctuations, his stuttering, and the English language, and he made it. He made it into uni, the first member of a big family to get anywhere near one…
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Image: Flickr / Kevin Dooley