Talk to Toowoomba English teachers Part 1

How many teaches can claim that all their students enjoy their classes? That they are not just going on delivering a curriculum that has been prescribed. How many can claim to be innovators?

My novel is about an ambitious teacher who was prepared to take risks and the students who joined him in the adventure. In a prize winning essay I wrote last year I described teachers as the nutritionists of the mind. A great teacher can be the inspiration behind many of the values their students adopt and the career paths they follow. Good teachers are greatly undervalued.

If you travel into the Carnarvon Ranges region you are likely to feel that the Dreamtime spirits are your fellow travellers, both friendly and haunting. Many of the Bidjara, Garinbal and Yimi people where slaughtered by early settlers. There are rock paintings and burial sites and artefacts to be found throughout the rangers, not just the well known ones in Carnarvon Gorge. The aboriginal association with the land is easy to detect. If you are a white intruder with no regard for landscape or compassion for the first nation people I like to think that the Eunjes, ancestral spirits, will spook you.

I first took Mt. Gravatt High school students there in 1966 and subsequently led six other student expeditions into the ranges between 1968 and 1982. So my story Cave Hill is what I call, memoir in fiction. Incidents that happened during those trips find their way into the my Cave Hill story, the history of the area is revealed, the landscape is painted in words. The characters are fictitious but the place and time are real even to the date of the full moon on the night before the tragedy. I admit Cave Hill is a story designed to teach as well as entertain …. As an outdoor educator I believe in teaching about place, the pedagogy of place, plus the pedagogy of time in relation to place.

There are many stories told along the way that figure in the Cave Hill memoir…. The Leichhardt and Major Mitchell expeditions, the Hornet Bank massacre, the outlaw exploits of the Kenniff Brothers, the 1962 excavation of Kenniff Cave led by Prof John Mulvaney, the story of the highly decorated Aboriginal soldier Reg Saunders, and the history of Carnarvon Station.

We learn to know landscape through stories, either told or untold. Our personal constructs and perceptions and the stories passed on in families and in myths legend, art and song. Our indigenous people know this and demonstrate it in their dreamtime stories, art and songlines. Our modern culture is so much more materialistic. We forget what the land and its history can teach us.

About rpsimson1936

Retired geography and outdoor education teacher who loves orienteering and writes novels.
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