On doing some thinking on the chief question posed by Helen Britton in her recent “where do I come from?” workshop, I had cause to ponder how I got here. And while pondering, I got to writing the story down. It’s a long yarn, so this is just part one.
As I mentioned a while back, my high school taught jewellery, well, at least when I was there. Classes were held in a special purpose demountable classroom, that was hinged off the back of the other ‘manual arts’ buildings. The classes were mostly populated by girls who liked the idea of jewellery as a title for a course, and boys who wanted to add another period of bumming around in the manual arts areas – close enough to woodwork and metalwork to still be ‘not a real subject’.
I had decided at about age 11 or 12 that I wanted to be an architect, so I naturally decided that my compulsory manual arts course in first year of high school would be woodwork. (You had to choose out of woodwork or metalwork since plastics, mechanics and jewellery were optional extras.) I liked and enjoyed art (which was also compulsory in year 8 ) and I added in Technical Drawing owing to my future as an architect, but I threw in jewellery in second semester because I liked jewellery, and I liked working with my hands.
I enjoyed it a lot, so I kept it up. Not many people did. But you couldn’t do the subject every semester; in each of the junior grades they only ran it once a year, and they only offered it til year 10.
When I reached year 10 I was told that I could no longer participate, as I had done the two units they offered; if I continued I would be repeating the class from the year before. I told my family, and my Dad and I scheduled a meeting with the deputy principal, Mr Daniels. We asked a simple question, why not let me continue? We were told that he couldn’t add a class just for me. The scheduling was fine, (in later years I had to quit TEE classes when they shifted timetables on me) but repeating the course wasn’t allowed. My Dad went one further, and asked “well, what if she wants to become a jeweller?” We were effectively told that the Deputy’s hands were tied. The meeting ended
And now, a brief interlude in the story to contextualise. It’s pretty safe to say that in high school (and arguably, to this day) I was a nerd. In high school that meant that I achieved very good grades. I was never picked on for this, or anything else (aside from some brief notoriety when I was gifted with a baby brother at age 13.75.) As a general rule I was a fairly invisible student.
Later that day there was a general assembly in the gym, with the whole school. Towards the end Mr Daniels spoke, and concluded with “…and can Melissa Cameron please come and see me after this assembly.” This request filled the space that he usually reserved for summoning those he wanted to see to be disciplined for their behaviour during the assembly. My nearby friends looked toward me with question marks on their faces. I shrugged; I didn’t know either.
I met Mr Daniels outside the gym, on the verandah. He informed me that had changed the rule, and was allowing me to have my own jewellery class. In it I pretty much got to set my own agenda, but being the dutiful student that I was, I set about a semester long project, making something that I thought would be both challenging and special. I scoff at the set now, but I remember being very proud of it when I finished it.
There’s more to this story, but this ‘where did I come from?’ is in three parts, so I’ll tell part two another time.