I was a teacher in several New Zealand secondary schools for about 28 years. After that, I spent eight years as the education coordinator of a small psychiatric hospital, looking after its teaching programmes and events. Later, I employed myself, making a most enjoyable living. I have now retired.
My degree major was History, with some sometimes entertaining forays into English, Anthropology, Franglais, Anglo-Saxon, a smattering of educational Psychology, but we don’t talk about the economics. Having trained at Christchurch Teachers’ Training College in History and Social Studies and then having been let loose on an unruly student population, I spent most of the subsequent decades as a teacher of English. It’s what History graduates do…
Most of my teaching was done at schools in Dunedin. At my last long-term post there, I was Head of Department History, Head of Department Social Studies, teacher in charge of internally-assessed School Certificate English with a sideline in remedial sixth form English, teacher in charge of ESOL students, and a Dean of House. Sports coaching took up a bit of time, too.
After that I spent some years in recovery at The Correspondence School in Wellington, where I was involved in radio broadcasting as an actor, writer, editor and sometimes a producer for the Social Sciences, German and Science Departments. I also wrote and helped edit teaching resources and, as at other places before and since, I assisted my colleagues through the esoterics of the world of computers and the narrow logic of people who write software programs and the manuals to go with them. A colleague there roped me in to co-write a textbook for Pearson Education, and two decades on the thing is still in print.
Next, I spent some time in Christchurch, firstly as a relief teacher, then a teacher at the Southern Health School working in a unit dealing with adolescents with mental health issues. I also worked at a lovely community college for a time as an ESOL teacher, where the comfortable arm’s-length historian in me was brought face to face with the results of modern war and politics: does anyone remember now that some children who survived the Tampa incident came to New Zealand and avoided – just – Australian refugee camps? It is an other-worldly experience to face kids sitting peacefully, securely, in front of you in a safe country and know that they, like you, watched last night’s TV report about their compatriots, people they travelled with and knew by name, who were self-immolating and sewing their lips together in protest at Australian Rules as applied to detention centres. You’re welcome to ask yourself how you’d start the lesson at that point…
Moving back to Dunedin, I finally completed training as a Teacher of English as a Second Language. (Ironically, having been in the field for years as an untrained teacher, I’ve never formally used that qualification since.) Then, I took a part-time position as Education Coordinator of a small psychiatric hospital, administering their public teaching programmes and maintaining their NZQA registration. I also spent some time as the hospital’s Quality Coordinator, rewriting their policies and procedures into handbooks of practice and working within the committee structure there to update the handbooks.
In 2013, after completing one last house renovation, I stopped being chronically employed by other people and now employ myself in a variety of contract work. (Yes, alright, I know “employ” here is ambiguously paradoxical, but you know what I mean.)
I regret not taking the plunge sooner. I got to choose to do unusual and really nice jobs: for example, making an oral history of a local organisation which was at the forefront of the 1970s movement to provide assisted accommodation to patients as they were moved from large psychiatric institutions into the community. Or assisting people starting in business to write their policies and procedures clearly and not hamstring themselves in the process. Or repairing computers that won’t play the game. Or holding late-night telephone consultations about the theory of website structure. Or plastering walls and repairing balusters and holes on the floors of student flats…. Or… well, you get the picture.
I’ve always deliberately specialised in being a generalist. I want to know something about everything and then to share it. I used to provide an eclectic range of services for a fee, which provided an income, but in truth I remain at heart a teacher, rather than a strict provider of services for hire. I’m fine with that, and I hope there’s some benefit for you, too.
Peter BuckinghamBachelor Of Arts (Otago) (1973)
Postgraduate Diploma In Arts (Otago, Credit Pass) (1974)
Teachers Training College Diploma (CTTC, 1975)
Secondary Teacher’s Practising Certificate no. 100119 (to 06/12/2005)
CANZ Level 1 Coaching certificate
Total Quality Management in Education (TQE) (1994)
Certificate in TESOL (Otago Polytech, 2003)