Whilst my previous blog on Education and Schooling focused more on the state of the British schooling system at the time Thomas was going through his education, I now intend to focus more on Thomas’ experiences in school and his attitudes towards education which ultimately had a lasting impact on his life.
As mentioned in my previous blog, Thomas’ first encounter with education was a Dame School before moving onto an elementary infant school aged four. This proved to be a positive experience for Thomas as he recollects the two Headmasters who ‘good examples pf what was then, and for many more years, known as a trained teacher’ (4). irrespective of the fact that the standard of school certificate that these teachers were rewarded were the same as those ‘did not rise much above the standard of a school certificate awarded to boys of sixteen’4 which I find to be interesting when compared to modern day school teachers who are far more trained highlighting the progress made to provide a better learning experience for pupils.
Thomas (during his time as a pupil-teacher) believed himself to be on an equal level of skill as his teachers, commenting: ‘I believe I taught as well as any other teacher in the school’ (9). This could reflect the simplicity of the material students were being taught at the time or the teaching abilities of the professional teachers; this could also be the start of Thomas’ interest in studying.
During Thomas’ time at secondary school he took it upon himself to become a boy-teacher during the week which he claims ‘gave me opportunities for study which I should not have had if I had started to learn a trade, the only alternative for me’ (9). Thomas diverts from his father’s footsteps by opting to pursue an academic career, an opportunity his father did not share. It could be the matter that after witnessing his father struggle every day to provide for his family it appeared not to be the optimal method of generating money therefore strived towards
The majority of working-class could not obtain a career similar to Thomas, most could not read or write let alone impart those skills unto other people which is why a life of labour was the easier path to take. He chose to become a pupil-teacher aged 15 ‘not because I loved teaching, but because I loved study’ (9). This gave him the chance to demonstrate what he had learned during his (at the time) relatively short school-life and is an early sign of the motivation he had for his long illustrious career.
During Thomas’ time in London he attended Borough Road Collage, he comments on the intelligence of himself and his peers: ‘as for intellectual ability our standard was high’ (12). I thought this to be a surprise, he further informs that ‘most of us came from uneducated homes’ (12) showing that others in Thomas’ position were able to break free of their background and achieve a higher social status without the restrictions of their environment.
Thomas Raymont. Memories of an Octogenarian 1864-1949. Found at The Burnett Archive of Working Class Autobiographies, at Brunel University.