I teach Literature at University of the Third Age (U3A)—as wide a range of literature as I can manage. This year I am teaching the works of Shakespeare. I love what I do.
I was born in a small outback country town, and Mum and Grandma sang me songs and told me stories. My mother quoted Shakespeare to me. Schooling in the country in the 1930s consisted of the old School Readers, which were grand. I could not get enough to read—ever.
I, a girl, and the eldest in a family of boys begged my parents to allow me to continue my education. But the answer was “Boys need to support a wife and children, so they need a skilled trade. A girl does not.”
My parents were delighted when, almost for a joke, I sat for and won a scholarship to Business College to learn office work. I really wanted to be a school teacher. But my family needed me to earn a wage, so off to Business College I went and then to work in an office.
I found office work terrible. My active outdoor life changed to one of imprisonment in four walls all day. Soon I escaped and began to experience life in various jobs. As this was wartime, jobs were plentiful and varied. Naturally I read all the time, every day, everywhere.
After the war, as a mother, I told stories to my babies. I bought secondhand books, did classes, enrolled in correspondence courses, and read. My in-laws did not approve. After the kids had flown the nest, I went to high school and got my Higher School Certificate with such good marks I was able to go to university as a Mature Age Student. Off I went.
Because work tied me to my bookshop which I had owned for twenty years, I took several years to get my degree. By then I was about 60, and circumstances forced me to retire.
U3A was starting, so I joined. I recited poems and I was applauded! I taught classes and they were enjoyed. I grappled with new authors, and they were liked! Cloud nine! I was a teacher at last!
I have learned from the greatest, noblest minds in the literature of poetry, art, religion, history, and philosophy! Life has a finer meaning and pattern for me. Because of these books and the thrill of learning, I am healthier and exultantly joyful. To be able to share such treasure doubles my pleasure.
So, thanks to all the students who come. Thanks to the committee who give me space to work. Through the freedom and structure of U3A, I may explore, learn, and teach. I am so elevated!
I tell my class in moments of tender and humorous connection that one day, when I have shuffled off this mortal coil, I will talk to Shakespeare and Socrates and Jane Austen in Heaven. Hopefully, I will be able to understand them and not be ashamed or ignorant. Bless the U3A!
Supported by the Victorian Government, U3A is a learning cooperative of older people which encourages healthy ageing by enabling members to share many educational, creative and leisure activities. There are 100 U3As in Victoria. If you would like to learn more about U3As please visit: Community Organisations.