Miss Louisa Paddison, L.L.A
Many psalmists remind us that brief life is here our portion, that man's days are as grass, that life is "an infinitesimal space between light and darkness". Truly even the calendar races before us. We behold the wild rose blowing in the hedge, but delight goes when we hear the cruel swish of the scythe laying low the lovely lush grass. We night well deliver ourselves at once into the hands of the pessimists who remind us that hardly is the christening cake cut than the funeral baked meats must be prepared.
There are indeed, moments when those whose meridian of life is past feel that nothing has happened since they stood invested with personal responsibility on the threshold of a career, the great hope of the idealist, the irresistible impulse of youth. This is not the experience of the second rate, the feeble, the easy-going, the sluggard : it is that of the one who has spent bodily strength and mental gifts generously.
Miss Paddison, about to withdraw from active teaching, must at times regard those vanished years - during which she has striven with distinguished success to make thousands of pupils survey mankind from China to Peru - with an almost bewildered astonishment, asking them how they have had the heart so treacherously to steal away. She must feel at times that only the other day she cam hurrying from Pitsmoor, choosing the quick way by Corporation Street, to take her classes at the "Centre". The said "Centre" was then the apple of the eye of the Sheffield School Board. With what indignation did they hear that the President of the Board of Education about to declare the building open asked with nonchalance at the last moment : "And what is a Pupil Teacher?" When Miss Paddison and Mr. Batey practically took charge of the institution they could probably hardly have been matched for eager and tremendous energy. In those rather remote days, Miss Paddison had to be very versatile. Highly gifted and well trained in teaching art - at that time comprehensively called "Drawing" - she induced the most awkward pupils to produce the most satisfactory curves and figures. She had to be ready to take classes in History, Essay-writing, Needlework. Her own penmanship beautiful, she demanded good style in that of others: it is gratifying to note that educationists are again attaching importance to a rather lost accomplishment. The diligent searcher in our School building to-day will find evidence of Miss Paddison's great skill as a copyist. As for Needlework, former students are always eager to acclaim the high demands made in connection with "specimens" in the days of gathering, stroking, setting into a band. In more recent years, a sympathetic attention has been given to all new requirements, so the stitchery of dainty dresses, the purled and plain loops of jumpers, the design of intimate garments have all been easily dealt with by a complete mistress of the subject.
If called upon to teach
Domestic Science, Miss Paddison could easily unravel the ins and outs of
that probably the most important of all subjects. There is little
that she does not understand from good cooking to planning the foundations
of a house or ensuring that there is not a screw loose on one of the stair-carpet
rods. From her many pupils has she earned gratitude by ministering
to them when sudden ailments supervened during lessons - a quite sufficient
order in themselves - by secretly supplementing scanty car-fare pocket
money, by speaking robustly comfortable words. Her genius for practical
help has always been better a thousand times than limp condolences.
Miss Paddison is very evidently a Yorkshire woman. Born in Hull, she must have been profoundly moved by the age-long secrets of that once adventurous place - its first character rather forgotten now. At Tideswell, her religious sensitiveness must have been kindled by the splendid church; she must have sought to probe the secrets of those grim stone walls, and of those taciturn and persistent people. Previously as a young student and Pupil Teacher, she performed all that work demanded by the exacting conditions of the time. She has always been a devoted daughter of Stockwell, her Training College, and has never recommended there any but those of sincere character and sound ability.
Mr. A. J. Arnold, appointed Principal of the Pupil Teacher Centre in 1899, regarded Miss Paddison as his right-hand man, valuing her real genius in framing time-tables, her uncanny capacity for conjuring up desk space in examination rooms after by the ordinary eye every square inch had been appropriated. In those old days of the Centre - glad days indeed and that not merely through the glamour of retrospection - students were few in number. They were specially selected, having chosen to become teachers. There was an ordered freedom - the only kind worth having -easily induced in a small school in the early 20th century. As Mr. Marvin points out, it is possible under such circumstances to stimulate individuality, unrestricted by regulations now devised in the interest of some common denominator.
The School developed; its character changed; its traditions somehow survived. Miss Paddison adapted herself to new conditions. Devoting her tremendous and untiring energy to the teaching of Geography, she required an equal response. Her subject is one calculated to awaken interest in the past and in the future, to arouse a desire to see and understand things and places as they really are, to behold not only the Hebrides, but the Thousand Isles, not merely the sparkling rills of the Ridings but the giant Rhine, the majestic St. Lawrence. The method of learning geography at first hand, that is, by travel; has until these recent days of speed and bigger salaries been beyond the purses of all but those wealthy or past the stage of adolescence. Now, by the cinema and the radio, all travel, if they wish, to the ends of the earth. It has been said recently that "the personality of the teacher" is on the way to being a catch word. Verbal tributes do not help much. Those of us who belong to Miss Paddison's generation have not seen the principle of the Sabbatical year come into operation - the Great War saw to that. We have not even enjoyed the "grace term" for study or research. In the long struggle to preserve our humanity we have not received such refreshment. It takes, surely, special grace to avoid such soul destruction as that painted in "Mr. Perrin and Mr. Traill", and hinted at in "The Good Companions". Miss Paddison must have found an antidote to the slow poison of the continuous toil; her enthusiasm burns as brightly now as at its first kindling when, a girl of twenty-one, she came to Sheffield. Such zeal is bound to be infectious. "It will often not merely illumine darkness for the time being, but will set going in a mind ready for it, a life-long interest." Note that success is lightly earned; but have we not been told for our comfort that against stupidity even the gods strive in vain? So our being need not be blighted by disappointments in the struggle to make the ultimate aims of true education prevail.
Miss Paddison has had no need of a testimonial nor any desire to have her character dissected in public. In a sense her appeal is to her intellectual posterity. Teachers who declare that they care not what their pupils think of them in that way set the measure of their own limitations. School is losing a stimulating presence; nobody else will ever accomplish in the same way a shadow of Miss Paddison's achievement. She has always been like a conductor indicating Allegro con Brio. She will be spoken of long after her voice is silent. But meantime, as in another case, her eye is not dim nor her natural powers abated. She is still to be relied on absolutely for accuracy in maps, plans, notes, "tests". Her Registration shows that she took to heart the admonition about no alterations, no erasures, no entries in pencil. "Whatever record leaps to light, (s)he never shall be shamed." Her pupils, working it may be in a new atmosphere, with other notions as yet untested will pass on the high standard set up for them. By a less laborious but eagerly questing generation, ideals may be transmuted but never lost.
No colleague would presume to set down in any public notice comments on Miss Paddison's private life, but one may be permitted to say that there she has displayed the same generosity, devotion, self sacrifice so consistently revealed at school. Into the secret life of the mind no one can ever penetrate; each of us is imprisoned, but sometimes a glance or a smile is revealing. Incapable of trivial sentimentality, Miss Paddison's outward expression has been friendliness bracing, sincere, robust and unflagging helpfulness. She has stood for strength, stability, valiance. If character means - as Ivor Brown says - To Stick It, or Courage, as his dear dead countryman called it, Miss Paddison has displayed it. Many times to her arduous duties she has added some task to help a perplexed colleague. While exercising her profession she found time to prepare successfully to take the L.L.A. Degree. She cycled, played tennis, gardened, sewed delightfully and to these added many other things.
In her retirement, she need not fear isolation or emptiness in existence. She may resume studies in which she is specially interested, including painting and music. Her garden will give her delight. She would have "to snooze to snug extinction by the fire". She may be sure that she will be surrounded by the grateful recollections of thousands of pupils, and by the sincere and affectionate friendship of her colleagues.