Off Topic: Seachange and Silly Schoolteachers

Every now and again, I find myself thinking back to some small incident or another that occurred long ago, that was troubling enough at the time for me to remember it now, but was not so bad that it somehow scarred me for life. In this particular instance, I found myself in bed at six am, having had a almost decent night sleep, when for no good reason whatsoever I found myself thinking about something that happened at school, oh, about twenty years ago. Inevitably, this led to me thinking about all of the things that I wished I had said at the time. Except that, you know, I didn't say them at the time. And that even if I had said them at the time, most likely the only person who would care about it now is me anyway. But I digress.

What happened was this. I was eighteen years old and thanks to circumstances that were beyond my control, I found myself unwillingly suffering through my final year of high school as an adult. This meant that I was someone who could vote (as I did in for the first time in a referendum that was held in November that year,) drink and enjoy a whole host of other responsibilities that came with early adulthood, whilst still being expected to follow school rules and being spoken to by teachers as though I were in my early teens. On that, I'll never forget the day one of the teachers threatened to call my parents over some minor misdemeanour--I told her that I was an adult, but she could go right ahead and call and see how interested my parents were in knowing that I'd skipped a nearly fucking useless school assembly in lieu of studying at the public library across the road. The teacher did indeed call my parents, and returned to the classroom red faced and muttering something about how my dad had basically said that I was old enough to know how to best manage my time. Anyway, year twelve was, without a doubt, a shit of a year, in which I walked a tightrope of desperately wanting to get out but fearing that my exam results wouldn't be good enough, and breaking as many school rules as I possibly could without actually being expelled. But there were also little spots of brightness that year, little things which reminded me that my life was basically okay even if I felt a bit unhappy with it all. I volunteered at a soup kitchen, I wrote the first draft of the book that would become Everybody Hates Abigail and my friend Flamy and I had a few interesting adventures, some of which I have mentioned on this blog before. 

And simmering away in the background was this nice television show on the ABC that my mum watched every week and I had started watching with her.

For the uninitiated, Seachange ran on the ABC for three series from 1998 to 2000 and told the story of Laura, a city based lawyer whose life changes after she discovers that her husband is cheating on her with her sister, and by the way, he's also in trouble for fraud. Taking her teenage children with her, she moves to isolated town (the fictional Pearl Bay,) where she takes up a job as a Magistrate and soon has to navigate life amidst the quirky locals. It was one of those shows that became a surprise hit, and by its second series in 1999 it was topping the ratings, despite airing at 7.30pm on a Sunday and relying mainly on word of mouth advertising. Seachange wasn't really aimed at teenagers, but I found myself drawn to it for a few reasons, most notably its quirky depiction of Australian life. Watching the series also had a surprising secondary benefit--I was close to failing year twelve Legal Studies, but I found myself being able to understand more and more about the workings of the Magistrates Court and the Australian legal system in general. In many ways this proved to be the turning point and I began to feel more confident in my ability and eventually not only passed the subject, but I passed with a high grade and went on to do Legal Studies as part of my Bachelor's degree. Anyway, Seachange is one of those things that should have been a pleasant memory, if it wasn't for one of the teachers at my school.

There is only one word I can think of to describe a teacher like Ms J and that is ignorant. Certainly many of my classmates may disagree with me. Ms J was an extremely popular teacher. Personally, I suspect many of the things that made her popular was her ignorance--she was the type whose interest in her students depended on just how popular or at least mainstream they were. I was neither popular and nor was I a normal teenager. Ms J had difficulty remembering my name while I was in her class, though, apparently, she can still remember the names of some of my classmates almost twenty years after we all graduated. I can also remember one particularly annoying incident in year ten health when she was discussing what life was like caring for those who are visually impaired, and basically dismissed all of my lived experience of having a step-grandfather who was both deaf and blind. I guess Gramps just wasn't normal or popular enough for her or something. Ms J was also responsible for handing out those joke certificates that everyone is supposed to get at the end of year twelve that congratulates them for stupid things like being the biggest chatterbox or having the shortest haircut, etc. Guess which student she forgot? (Is it too late to give this woman a fuck you award?)

Anyway, this is the incident I will always remember Ms J for--she made a comment to a boy in my grade about how she thought he looked like Diver Dan, a character who appeared in the first series of Seachange. I remember laughing, because she was spot on in her assessment. The guy did look like a junior version of Diver Dan. And I don't know what I'd interrupted by laughing, but I can still remember the way she looked at me, frowned, and added, 'You have to be over thirty-five to know what that show is.' I think I flipped her the bird and added it to my mental list of the many ways I consider her ignorant. Television programmes, particularly successful and well made ones will always find viewers who are outside of their target audience. They're generally people who watch along with one or more family members--that's why programmes like Sesame Street with often have a little in-joke for the parents who may be watching along with their child. But I also suspect that wasn't why Ms J mentioned it. Teachers often have subtle ways of cutting down the students they don't like, and it doesn't always have to be relevant to the curriculum.

Recently, Seachange has made a return to television, albeit on a different channel and without Diver Dan. I haven't watched any episodes, mostly because I feel no particular urge to. Whatever it was about the show that appealed to me then does not have the same appeal to me now. Maybe this will change, maybe it won't. In any case, I wonder if Ms J is still out there, telling her students that they cannot possibly have heard of it ...




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