John Willing launches his first novel based on 40 years of teaching

TIME CAPSULE: John Willing has launched his first novel based loosely on his time as a teacher. Photo: Mark Logan.
TIME CAPSULE: John Willing has launched his first novel based loosely on his time as a teacher. Photo: Mark Logan.

After a career in teaching that lasted 40 years, John Willing has a story or two to draw on.

Not only does he have tales from both the classroom and the staffroom to recall, he also takes stock of the social and educational paradigms that have shifted over those 40 years.

Mr Willing spent his career working in western New South Wales as a teacher and school leader.

It is autobiographical to some degree but a lot of the events happened to colleagues as well.

John Willing

Schools that he worked at included Forbes, Ivanhoe, Grenfell, Blayney, Mandurama, Millthorpe, Bletchington and the school that figures in his first novel, Spicers Creek.

Titled 'A Clutch of Speckled Eggs' his first novel draws on the many facets of teaching from how staff interact with each other and the students, to how small one teacher schools have disappeared as society has changed.

"It's all about a young teacher who's appointed to a little bush school in the early 70's and the experiences that happened to him over a two year period," he said.

"It is autobiographical to some degree but a lot of the events happened to colleagues as well," he said.

For a story that spans two years Mr Willing took five years to write it because as an historian that has either published or been involved in several other history books, it was a period of time in Australian history that he feels needs to be remembered.

"That period between the late sixties and early seventies is a period that's almost lost," he said.

"There was a massive change in education when it moved from being very centralised and rigorous to it being where communities were virtually developing their own curriculum and had the freedom to do all sorts of things.

"It was also a time when all these rural communities were losing all these bush schools."

That combination of inexperienced teachers being lobbed into a community where the school faces closure is at the central core of A Clutch of Speckled Eggs, and that freedom of action by the teachers is a rich source of material.

"Those decisions made by people are reflected in the book and there are a lot of fun things that happened to me and to others," he said.

'A Clutch of Speckled Eggs' is available at Blayney Botanicals, the Tourist Information Centre in Blayney and also at the Millthorpe Providore.

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