In the interest of full disclosure, the possibility of travelling to England and seeing, first hand, all the history and romance of a place that had fascinated me from a young age, was what first attracted me to Memorial University’s Harlow Campus.
In 1974, I was heading into my third year at Memorial and the student teaching segment of a bachelor of education degree.
Part of your degree at that time was to work with a co-operating teacher one day a week in St. John’s during the Winter term to gain in-classroom teaching experience.
Then, after the term, to take a two-week teaching block at a school somewhere in the province (not necessarily the one in which you had worked during the term).
Alternatively, you could travel to Old Harlow, Essex, U.K., and work for four weeks at a school in that town.
Needless to say, my interest was piqued at the chance to briefly live and work abroad and so I applied to travel from April-June 1974. You can imagine my delight when I was accepted into the program.
Pay phones and hot showers (?)
The Harlow campus of 1974 was quite different from that of the present day.
I shared a room with another aspiring teacher, which consisted of two beds, two desks and two closets. There was no ensuite bathroom, private phone line or computer hookup like today’s rooms.
Instead, there was a gender specific bathroom (including showers/tubs) on each floor (I distinctly remember making sure that I was up really early so as to be certain of a hot shower.)
There was a pay phone on the first floor on the wall under the stairs where you had to be strategic about when to call home so you were assured of some privacy! These housekeeping items were a new experience for someone who had never stayed in residence before.
Our supervisor was John Acreman, a Faculty of Education professor who guided us in our work with the local Harlow schools and helped us with any issues that arose.
He and his wife Marjorie were our “Harlow parents”, who hosted us for dinners and listened to our adventures, both in and out of the classroom, and organized field trips to Cambridge, Audley End, and other places of interest for me and my fellow student teachers.
My roommate, Brenda Smith, and I were assigned to Latton Green Infants School in Old Harlow. In a class of children ranging in age from 3-8 years old, I learned to multi-task and deal with children of different age and skill levels.
This proved invaluable to me as my first teaching placement in Newfoundland was in a rural school with multi-grade classrooms.
The use of music and the emphasis on physical activity for the children were, again, themes I was able to transfer to my classrooms wherever I was stationed later in my 38-year teaching career.
When our four weeks of teaching was finished, my classmates and I took advantage of the chance to explore Europe. I flew to Spain and then travelled by train through that country to France.
“My two sisters and brother, and even my daughter, 30 years later, all made the decision to study at Harlow Campus.”
The adventures on that trip, as well as the many trips to London and other parts of England, were part of the overall positive experience that Harlow afforded me.
I returned to Newfoundland eager to share the experiences and knowledge that I gathered during my time at the Harlow Campus.
I must have done a good job selling it, because my two sisters and brother, and even my daughter, 30 years later, all made the decision to study at Harlow Campus during their university degrees, all with the same great reviews.
My time at Harlow Campus not only helped prepare me for my teaching career, but gave me the unique opportunity to live, work and travel abroad that I wouldn’t normally have gotten, and for that, I am very grateful.
Are you a Harlow alumnus? Come to Signal Hill Campus in St. John’s on Oct. 25 for the final 2019 reunion celebration of the amazing experiences shared at Harlow Campus, Memorial’s U.K. home away from home. Open to all alumni and friends of Harlow Campus, it will be a great night of memories (old and new) with an infusion of British décor, food, beverages and music.