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Inside Teaching : April 2011
inside teaching | April 2011 20 QUESTIONS 34 Press and will be launched in May at the Sydney Writers Festival. It’s dedicated to a few people. My parents Kate and Andy; Derek Hansen who taught me to write, a hard task master in advertising; Jytte my friend and counsellor who helped me get my life into perspective in my 20s when I had obsessive-compulsive issues; Natalie Scott who taught me to persevere in a writing group she ran; and finally my husband Ralph, and my children Polly and Charlotte who taught me to feel. Can you recall a teacher who was important to you? In primary school at French’s Forest Public School, in Year 4 Mr Dan thought I was as smart as mustard. He encouraged my felicity with language. The kids didn’t like it. I used long words and read long books. Mr Corkhill my English teacher in fourth form, a nice man. June Frayter in fifth and sixth form. She was a wonderful, wonderful teacher – good mind, fun, rigorous. All three had humour and warmth and liked a bit of cheek. Can you tell me something you did as a school girl that was perhaps a bit outside the acceptable limit? I’d joke and laugh in class, and I loved to get involved in discussions, but I knew how to stay just this side of trouble so when I was talking to someone they’d get into trouble, not me. I transformed between primary and high school. I made myself more likable. I learned how to pitch presentation to my audience. I wore short skirts and swore a lot. I took up smoking, which I regret. It was an important lesson in not giving up who I was but in pitching language to the people I was talking to. I learned to connect without putting off. It wasn’t dumbing down. This skill has stood me in good stead for all my life. It’s not copying people but learning to be like them, having not a top-down discussion but a person-to-person one. It succeeded. I had friends and had a good time. I loved it. What would you call a future autobiography? A Woman of No Importance. I don’t represent anyone. I’m my own self, completely free to say what I like. Your daughters, Polly and Charlotte, were born prematurely; what effect did that have on your life? Polly was 34 weeks. She picked up a respiratory infection and was admitted to intensive care, the last neo-natal bed available that night – a very traumatic introduction to parenthood. We learned that there was no such thing as safety. The grief counsellor, Peter Barr, helped bring everything into perspective. Terrible things can happen but you just have to get on with things. Polly survived with no ill effects. She teaches at Canterbury Boys High School in Sydney and sent the letter to talk show host Oprah that was responsible for rapper Jay-Z visiting the school, and the school being bussed to the taping. Afterwards Oprah donated a laptop to every student as well as music studies gear worth $1 million. Charlotte was 36 or 37 weeks, six pounds. Some women just cook their kids quicker. What’s scarier, facing a roomful of students at the University of Western Sydney (UWS) or facing a bunch of fellow creatives presenting a new campaign? I’m not frightened of facing any group of people. I’ve got some knowledge here. My advertising work teaches me that you have to engage people first. Some students don’t like me because they want a script but when you come to creativity you can’t follow rules or you end up where everyone ends up. Linear control freaks find my course more difficult. They must have fun and try to bring their own way of relating to the world to their work. Creatively you know and feel if you’re right. A new ad campaign is scary because formulaic thinking kills creativity dead. Intuition and judgement is killed with research and pseudo-science. It’s depressing rather than frightening. Rules destroy people. We don’t need measurable skills, we need