I have been a teacher since 1966 when I worked for a year in a girls’ grammar school in Surrey. This was followed by student teaching in a Remand Home, a Secondary Modern and at the remarkable Redhill School for high IQ ‘maladjusted’ boys run on modified Neillian lines in rural Kent.

Later that year (having survived an arrow wound and an assault with a large dictionary: a convergence from which I developed 48-hours of passive aggressive hiccups), I became Second in Charge and later Acting Head of the English department at South Hackney School, a comprehensive in east London.

Here I compiled what would now be described as a multi-cultural poetry anthology for school use. It was typed onto roneos by ‘Clerk Typist’ girls in the Fourth Year and subsequently adopted as a three volume anthology by Chatto and Windus until they sold their education list to Granada and it was abandoned.

After four years at South Hackney I worked at Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois. Here between 1971 and 1974 I taught English and American literature, an education course for trainee teachers and creative writing.

In summer 1973, on a grant from Northwestern, I worked at the Alaska State Museum in Juneau, putting together education materials for rural schools in the state.  The first of these packages was based on Tlingit Indian traditions. I then visited Point Hope, an Inupiaq (north Alaskan Eskimo) village to record stories for a companion project.

Over the following years while I was absorbed in ethnographic work in Point Hope, I would occasionally be invited into the school to tell ‘Eskimo stories’ to the Inupiaq students. One later product of this involvement was a school book about Point Hope social history which was commissioned by the North Slope Borough and the Alaska Humanities Forum.

I wrote this in 1988, but on account of a chapter about shamanism in the traditional culture, it was judged to be unsuitable. I learned recently that an inspirational teacher of long standing in the village was using a samizdat version of the book in her social studies classes. Meanwhile, thinking on the subject of shamanism in the Inupiaq administration has moved on, and I believe there are now plans to put this quite ordinary little book into production.

Returning to the UK in 1986, I began teaching at the Islington Sixth Form Centre and then at City and Islington (FE) College. For three years, I also held a class at H.M. Pentonville called ‘Bedsitter Cookery’ in which groups of 6 or 8 inmates came once a week to put together dishes which we cooked on two extremely primitive Baby Belling stoves in relatively cosy but quite squalid conditions.  At Pentonville, I also taught English and, for a short time, Buddhist meditation.

For several years during the same period, I also gave occasional talks and seminars within university departments – in the US at Barnard College (New York), the universities of Washington and Alaska and in the UK at Edinburgh, Glasgow, various London university colleges and Cambridge.

For four years in the mid-1990s I also taught courses at Chelsea School of Art and Design. One class was about shamanism and its relationship tribal art, the other was on Buddhism.  In 1993 I was Fellow of Writing at the University of Reading, where I gave the annual Finzi Memorial reading in the beautiful panelled room which holds the late Gerald Finzi’s library.

Most of my teaching over the past twenty years has been with multi-ethnic groups of mixed ability in Islington and Hackney.  At City and Islington College, I taught ACCESS courses to students who would be applying, without A levels, to university.

I continue to teach – private students coming from the same north-east London constituency – and in addition to poetry readings, still occasionally give university seminars.


9 Responses to Teaching

  1. Richard Bready says:

    What was the title of the three-volume anthology, please? A search for your name and Chatto turns up nothing.
    “Do not speak slightingly of the three-volume anthology, Cecily. I myself composed one in youth.”

    • Tom says:

      Hello Richard:

      Thank you for your question. The anthology was called ‘I’ll Make me a World’, which was, I think, a line from an African American song or chant. Chatto sold to Granada and the latter, while obliged to continue with preparation for publication, were rather luke warm. I then drifted away to Evanston and lost touch with the whole business, which was then quietly shelved…

      You and I are, I think, the only readers who have visited this solitary site, which lies like the stones of Shang-du among the wastes of cyber space.

      • Mei Yu says:

        Hello Tom,

        Very glad to have met you, though briefly, at S.B. last week…
        By the way, what are the Stones of Shang-du ?

        Look forward to your reply and best wishes,

      • tlowenstein2 says:

        Dear Mei Yu, I’ve just learned how to get into my site and found your message, which seems to end with ‘Stones’. Sorry for this delay in replying. I shall now add to the pages and try to stay in better touch! Best wishes, Tom

  2. Deborah Rose-Lefmann says:

    I hope you are still checking this–
    I am a librarian at Northwestern University, responsible for cataloging some papers in our archives. Two different forms of your name have been established in library catalogs, and I am trying to confirm that they really are the same person, and that all of the works attributed to that person are written by the same person. The bibliography on this site was very helpful; thank you! Are you also the (co-) author of the Time-Life books Gods of Sun and Sacrifice: Aztec and Mayan Myths and Mother Earth, Father Sky: Native American Myth, and the new book Buddhist Inspirations? If I can straighten this out, then all of your works will be listed together and your readers will be able to find them. Thank you!

    Deborah Rose-Lefmann
    Northwestern University Library

  3. Steve Gable says:

    Hi Tom. I just heard Ted Hughes mentioned on the radio and it reminded me of the time in South Hackney when you played us recordings of readings by yourself and Ted. All very influential and still appreciated. There is a picture from those days on this page: http://www.jazztrain.co.uk/bands/early-years
    Appologies if this is an inapproriate place to post this .
    Best wishes, Steve Gable

    • tlowenstein2 says:

      Dear Steve, I’ve just learned how to get into my site and belatedly found your message, although I can’t read it all. Apologies for the delay. Were you a student at South Hackney School? Best wishes, Tom

  4. Phlip Wigge says:

    Dear Tom,
    I’m sure you don’t remember me, but you were a terrific teacher and I remember to this day your help with my use of the semi-colon, as well as our discussions about Nelson Mandela! I was just unpacking some of my old books and I came across “The Vision of the Buddha” which reminded me of you, so I thought I would check if you were still writing. Great to see this site! I now live in Cambridge, so if you ever visit your old alum, please come drop in. It would be wonderful to see you again after all these years.
    Best wishes,
    Phil Wigge (ISFC, English GCSE 1989-90)

    • tlowenstein2 says:

      Dear Philip,

      I do remember you – but had forgotten your surname. I can’t read further than ‘to this day your’, because I don’t know how to negotiate website and very seldom look at it. My email is tlowenstein at blueyonder.co.uk Good to hear from you. I assume that you are an active and successful environmental biologist by now. Best wishes, Tom

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