Exploring with bus pass
Full copy from November 2018 Newsletter.
The October trip was perhaps the most successful trip that we have undertaken in 2018 and yet the journey was quite a short one only as far as Reading. Twenty-two members drove as far as the Park and Ride facility at Mereoak. Here, we were able to park for £1 per car for the day and ride the bus into Reading Town centre for FREE using our highly treasured and valuable bus pass. From the town centre, it was a short walk to the Cosmo restaurant for lunch.
Many of the group had not been to Cosmo before but they very quickly learnt the system. This was a help-your-self buffet with food dishes from many different countries. There many varied and different types of dishes and group members spent time exploring different tastes. Some tried small amounts of a number of dishes before making their choice of the main dish while others knew what they wanted and went for it. There was also a varied course of sweets/puddings and again members chose a number to sample. After an hour and half of lunching it was time for a short walk to Reading Museum. When the whole group had gathered, we walked through to an old part of the Reading Abbey remains.
We walked up to the top floor of the building where we found the room laid out and designed as a Victorian classroom. We were greeted by lady dressed as a Victorian teacher. She talked to the group about Victorian education, particularly in the Primary age-group. She explained many of the differences between modern day education and Victorian education, relating to behaviour, manners, work styles, punishments, etc. Following this, the teacher informed the group that we were now going into a role play situation where we would be a class of 10-11-year-old children.
The group who had previously been given Victorian Christian names, were lined up in height order and then allocated their desk. We were told to sit down with hands behind our backs and with no talking. It took a little time to achieve the no talking but the strictness of the teacher walking around with her cane helped the class to conform. The class register was then called and each pupil had to stand up and say ‘Yes Ma’am present‘ The register took time to achieve, mainly due to talking noises, but was achieved in the end.
The first lesson was a Mathematics lesson with a pounds, shillings and pence addition sum written up on the classroom blackboard. The class had to use their slates and write down the sum and then put slate pencil down and hands behind backs. No-one was allowed to write the answer to the sum. The sum was completed by the teacher asking a different pupil in turn to add up one column and give the answer. This was written on the classroom blackboard and the sum completed with the pupils. We were then told to copy from the blackboard and write the answers on our slates. This was followed by writing an R beside the sum meaning that the sum was right (no ticks allowed at this school). Then we were told to use our cloths to rub over our slate boards and then put them away.
During the next hour and a half, we experienced a range of other lessons – poetry, rote learning, geography, history, current matters, flags, patron saints and copy writing. Throughout the lesson one pupil played the part of the Class Dunce – unknown to the rest of the class – who were horrified when Zillah started coming out with a range of different comments about so many different things that she not only made the teacher very angry but also had the pupils in stitches. The situation got so bad that Zillah was called to the front to put on the Dunce’s hat. Unfortunately, the Dunce was a lot taller than the teacher and had to bend down and although the hat was put on her head it felt off immediately, she stood up causing more hilarity in the classroom. Septimus was called out to the front to receive a punishment for continuing to play football in the playground when he had been told by the Headmaster not to. The hand was held out and he received three cane strokes on the hand. It was rumoured that he had a spider in his hand as the strokes were submitted and the class teacher was genuinely afraid of spiders.
Following the end of the lesson, the group were gathered together, now out of character. The teacher gave the group feedback to the group saying it was the hardest lesson that she had ever taught finding it difficult to keep control – she commented that children were a lot easier to teach than this adult group. She did admit that this was the first time that she taught an adult group and the first time that it had been tried at Reading Museum.
The Group took advantage of the half-term break, as there were no schools or children’s groups booked in. The Bus Pass Group had approached Reading Museum and negotiated with them the experiment of undertaking a Victorian Schools session for the group. Having an adult group was something that the museum had not tried put before. As a result of the success of this visit, it looks likely that this has paved the way for other adult groups to undertake this experience in the future.
There were many favourable comments about the whole day trip.
Group report by David Gent