10 November 2013

Personal histories creating connection

Yesterday we went to the Dr Martens shop in the Valley to get Rick a new pair of shoes - he has worn Docs to work for more than 20 years, and his last pair suddenly split down the sides. While he was trying on a new pair, a young girl was obviously getting her first pair and I told the retail assistant serving us about Maddie's first Docs - they were pale blue with flowers and she looked as cute as a button in them. I then went on to tell her that my Dad used to drive trucks for Dr Martens from Northampton to London in the early '60s. In fact, I used to go with him on occasion - I'd be tied into the seat with string (no seat belts in those days) and off we'd go delivering boxes of Docs all over the city. I used to love it because the men in the factory would give me a few shillings and I would go home RICH! I remember once we ate lunch outside London Prison.

'THAT'S SO COOL', exclaimed the retail assistant.
'Is it?' I was thinking blankly.
'Thanks for sharing that story - I've got goose bumps up my arms,' she said. 'Can I have a photo with you? And we will put it on our history wall - up there.' She looked a bit embarrassed - 'Sorry, it's a bit random.' By this stage, we were all laughing.  I told her I'd ask my Mum to see if she had a photo of Dad in his truck and if so, I'd send it to her.

And herein, is such a beautiful example of personal histories that make connections between people. Here is this young woman, so into her job, surrounded by cool leather boots and shoes all day, completely besotted with the history of the company she works for and keen to record the connections she makes with that history on the wall of the shop. People look at that wall all day every day and wonder about the people and events posted there, and a result, they make connections with their own lives.

And this is what our new History Curriculum is all about - it's what makes it such a rewarding area to teach. Gone are the dry and dusty facts and relics - well, actually they are not gone; we are using these artefacts a lot - but now we teach children to look for the people in the photos and behind the relics and to discover the personal stories and to wonder what it was like to live in those times. The purpose of this wondering is to consider these stories in the light of how we live today.

I mean, can you imagine a Dad these days stringing up his three year old in the front seat of a truck and hurtling down the highway to the city and eating lunch outside the prison? Workplace Health and Safety and the Department of Child Safety (commonly known as DoCS, funnily enough) would have a field day.


  1. Great little story Gwen. I didn't know you were a pom! ;-)
    Cheers, John

  2. I'm not, John - was born in Melbourne but spent my early years in England