Carolyn Bartlett

It is such a gift to feel life, rather than simply process it and Carolyn Bartlett is one of those lucky people who can immerse in life and revel in its colour whilst maintaining a high degree of control over her own emotions. It makes for very pleasant and very interesting company.

Carolyn grew up in Melbourne, one of seven children and her mother who was a midwife has left a deep and lasting impression on her.

“I miss mum every day. She loved us to death. She was such a natural carer and just loved babies and children.

“She was so loving and she could tell in an instant by a look or a tone of voice if something was wrong with any of us children.

“I remember walking with my mother when the family’s first grandchild was born and we were all so overwhelmed with joy we could hardly contain it. But I clearly remember mum turning to me and saying that it was not a patch on what she felt when I was born.

“These moments stay with you,” Carolyn recalls.

Carolyn’s father was a Prisoner of War at Changi so she grew up in a War Service Home, which she describes as very adequate but also very small for nine people. As a family involved with the Baptist Church in Melbourne, Carolyn has sung all her life and she remembers fondly, neighbourhood children coming over to their home after Church on Sunday, such was the welcoming nature of her parents. She and her brothers were also heavily involved in the Girls and Boys Brigade, the forefather of the Scout and Guide movements.

Continuing in the nurturing footsteps of her mother, Carolyn became a teacher, first in Melbourne and then later, after moving to Bendigo, at Gravel Hill Primary School and later again, she started up a private tutoring group with some highly skilled ex-teachers.

She see’s teacher to pupil ratio’s as an important factor in the level of learning that is possible in a classroom.

“It’s very difficult in a group to help the students who are struggling and to take the time to find out exactly why they are struggling.

“It’s a privilege to sit with them one-on-one because they actually teach me how to teach.

“Over time I have learnt from my pupils exactly what it is that they do not understand in English or Maths, which means that when I have a student who cannot articulate why they do not understand something, I can offer them a range of possible reasons until they latch onto one.

“Once you understand what the blockage to learning is, you can commence the process of teaching them another way,” Carolyn said.

As Carolyn passionately goes on to describe the joys of teaching and waxes lyrical about trigonometry, angles of depression and elevation and retrospection, there is an overwhelming desire to bottle a little of her knowledge, insight and passion and sprinkle it onto every classroom in Australia.

“I watch my students’ body language and face when I am teaching them because often this is how I find out that they are struggling.

“Unfortunately, for young people it is better to be known as the kid who misbehaves than as the dumb kid, which is why so often children who are not learning academically end up acting in an anti-social way,” Carolyn said.

It comes as no surprise that with this kind of insight, at age 50 Carolyn did a Degree in Social Work and became a Counsellor. She claims to be trying to semi-retire but it is very hard to imagine.

“Quite often I have parents ring me before a Maths or English tutoring session and ask if I can spend part of the session with my Counselling hat on to work through a particular issue with their child.

“I am absolutely happy to do this because unless we sort out the social issues of the day, it’s difficult for learning to take place.

“The Counselling and Tutoring obviously go very well hand in hand, particularly because a child’s mind is like a clean slate. You have to be very careful what you say because what may seem a harmless comment from an adult about a child’s capability can affect them deeply.

“You also have to be aware of each child’s style of learning. I remember one of my students came to a tutoring session very upset about being in trouble at school for using her calculator in a maths test.

“It transpired that she was asked in a test to ‘calculate’ an answer and she had taken the meaning of calculate very literally,” she said.

When asked what observations Carolyn has about the current generation of children compared to her own childhood experience she is quick to point out that she sees today’s young people living with more fear than she ever did.

“Despite war and awful world events, ultimately, in Australia we felt isolated from the real problems and from the aftermath of conflict.

“Now, world conflict is much more indiscriminate and can happen anywhere at any time and I see some young people carrying that fear,” she said.

Carolyn is a proud mother and grandmother and unsurprisingly, very hands on, with one granddaughter staying with her a couple of nights a week so that she can take on the role of “stage grandma” and support her talented granddaughter’s passion for musical theatre. One of two son’s followed in her footsteps and became a teacher at age 30, having been the ‘naughty kid’ at school which, Carolyn says, makes him and exceptionally good teacher, able to relate to all students.

Carolyn’s nurturing tendencies extend beyond family to volunteer work at BaptCare which offers support to mothers with children pre-school age. She goes into homes and helps out in whatever way is needed.

“Last week, I was in the pool swimming with two toddlers, which was loads of fun,”Caronlyn says.

Semi-retire any time soon? Not likely.