From Chasing Cows to Wrangling Kids

Host: Horsemanship Linked Learning
Written by Shorna Ross

2012 saw a pretty big change for me, I decided to exchange the stock camp for the schoolroom and become the Governess or ‘Govie’ at Sylvania Station near Newman. I initially had one very cool little student in Year One through Port Hedland School of the Air. I worked school hours aiming to provide a super fun and engaging learning environment. We worked on learning and consolidating things like writing, reading, sight words, skip counting, patterns, addition, subtraction, and both fine and gross motor skills.

Memories from both this year and the consecutive years with a few different families teaching ages ranging from Pre-Kindy-Year 2 are both fun and frustrating mixed together. They involve lots of mess, art, craft and play as well as scratching my head over battles of wills, lots of critical reflection on my teaching and thinking outside the square in terms of how can I help my little students learn what they need to in ways that interest and engage them.

This doesn’t always happen, however it is the aim . . . engaged and loving school.

While I had loved every second spent covered in dust ‘chasing cows’ I love working with stations kids 100 times more. They are typically tough, caring, funny, smart, and resourceful. Being part of their lives is an amazing, rewarding experience which I believe is unforgettable. I was also extremely fortunate in that every place I have worked as Governess I also spent time mustering, handling weaners, and working horses either outside of school hours or on weekends or holidays. I truly had the best of both worlds.

A govie has many hats; teacher, friend, big sister, entertainer, distractor, mediator, conspirator, instigator, confidant, voice of reason, cook, cleaner, fixer, inventor, bulldust artist, and spoilsport. Sometimes we wear more than one hat at a time.

Feeding the new calf with my helpers. Photo Credit Narelle Bettini.

For me I can divide moments roughly into three categories. 1. Fun and rewarding. 2. Frustrating but funny. 3. Plain frustrating.

Plain frustrating is internet problems during air lessons. It is trying to explain to Master Five why ‘unicorn’ starts with ‘u’ but ‘yawn’ doesn’t. It is trying to explain why ‘to’ is spelt three different ways. It is a battle of wills that results in one sentence written in 45 minutes for daily writing. It is when Miss Three and Miss Two destroy/scribble on Master Five’s work he just put a lot of effort into. It is when the kids bicker all day and tears are never very far from the surface.

Frustrating but funny is when at the start of the year Master Six throws pencils at the wall rather than write. It is when you suggest we do something and Master Six gives you a serious little face and comes out with “Let’s not and say we did” quick as a flash. It is when Master Six’s Dad tells your partner the schoolroom sounds a bit like Kevin Wilson’s ‘This kid he swears a bit’ song. It’s when paint ends up everywhere twice in a row or Miss Three drops the whole container of beads on the floor not once but three times. It’s when Master Six sings the days of the months and leaves out ‘October’ for three weeks straight. It’s when Miss Two gets the full carton of eggs out of the fridge when you’re doing washing and runs through the house with them.

Egg Miss-haps.

The fun and rewarding bit is the best and far outweighs the frustrating bits. It’s a little hand clasped in yours as you go for a walk. It’s a toddler hugging your hip with a hand firmly clutching the front of your shirt. It’s lots of paint, bubbles, glitter, playdough, water fights, eating cookie dough, and making mud pies. It’s when Master 6 trots off the lead on his pony for the first time. It’s the big smiles and hugs you get every morning when you walk inside. It’s when the baby cries whenever you walk out the door. It’s the letter or drawing or flower Miss Three gives you on Monday morning. It’s when your cuddles have the power to dry tears over a grazed knee or squished fingers. It’s when Miss Two, who is just starting to talk says “Me want come you” when you say goodbye in the afternoon. It’s when Master Six writes ‘a’ with the right letter formation or ‘was’ correctly not as ‘wos’. It’s when Master Five writes ‘b’ or ‘2’ correctly with no letter reversal. It’s when the same little boy who used to throw pencils at the wall writes a cute Xmas story. ‘My name is Alfie the elf. I work for Mr and Mrs Santa Claus. Mr Santa is fat, funny, and laughs a lot. Mrs Santa makes the best chocolate chip cookies ever. Sometimes the reindeer bite my fingers. The end.’

Last Day of School for my first year of Governessing.