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 Post subject: Being a Chalet School mistress?
PostPosted: 11 Sep 2020, 09:34 
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There's been some talk in the news lately about problems recruiting teachers – which never seemed to be much of a problem for the Chalet School, except in Gay and Challenge, but times were different then. Would being a Chalet School mistress have been a good job?
Positive things – job security (except for nasty matrons), unlimited sick leave and compassionate leave, friendly working environment, opportunity to travel, accommodation and meals included, relaxed working conditions (no red tape, OK to abandon lessons in nice weather), long summer holidays, probably better paid than alternative options,.

Negative things – lack of personal space and privacy, being with colleagues and pupils 24/7, doesn't seem to be much time off, isolated location, limited opportunities for promotion, school authorities resistant to new ideas. (And having to teach in three languages, but presumably you wouldn't have got the job if you weren't up to that.)

I think the lack of personal space would have done my head in, but, on the other hand, it does seem to be a genuinely caring environment. No-one even minds when Rosalie goes off to the South of France with Evvy, during term-time, after she's been ill :D. Not everyone finds it easy to live alone, or to be an adult still living with parents/guardians, which might have been the alternatives. And getting a job in Austria or Switzerland must have been a big adventure at a time when opportunities for foreign travel were very limited for most people.

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Last edited by JamesLucas on 14 Sep 2020, 07:08, edited 2 times in total.

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 Post subject: Re: Being a Chalet School mistress?
PostPosted: 11 Sep 2020, 11:39 
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The opportunity to travel would be top of the positives for me. Those excursions sound incredible and visiting exotic places around Europe as a job just sounds great.

The biggest drawback would be the lack of privacy. I would go crazy having to take part in school activities like staff parties even in free time.

But Miss Annersley sounds like a very nice boss who would understand if I gently suggested that watching one more form "entertainment" would cause murder to be done :D

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 Post subject: Re: Being a Chalet School mistress?
PostPosted: 11 Sep 2020, 12:07 
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For me the positives are the job security, accommodation, foreign travel.

The negative is being constantly at work even when you aren’t working; it’s really important on a personal level for me to have physical distance between myself and my workplace so I can switch off!


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 Post subject: Re: Being a Chalet School mistress?
PostPosted: 11 Sep 2020, 12:21 
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I would hate having a live-in job - the lack of privacy/personal space, and feeling obliged to go and sit in the staff room all the time, would do my head in. However, I can see the attraction of having accommodation and meals included, especially at a time when it wasn't easy for single women to set up their own homes.

What I would love is the way they care about the staff. Unlimited paid sick leave. If you need time off due to a family crisis, no problem - no-one telling you that time off for funerals has to be taken as annual leave unless it's an immediate relative, or that you only get two days' bereavement leave even for next of kin. No suggestion of nastiness or bullying or colleagues trying to undermine each other.

It's never very clear when Miss Maynard, Miss Stewart, Miss Carthew et al meet their future husbands but, if they already had "understandings", it would have been a chance for adventure before settling down.

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 Post subject: Re: Being a Chalet School mistress?
PostPosted: 11 Sep 2020, 17:11 
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I think the big question is how it would have compared to the alternatives. If most boarding school staff would have been living on the premises with little personal time and probably fairly low wages then the CS looks like a decent option - same conditions but with foreign travel. However if career progression was important to you then being isolated on the continent in a school with a unique way of working probably wouldn't have been a good thing.

Regardless of that I think the CS does sound like a good workplace - the food and accommodation are good and it is a very supportive and flexible employer. It seems a lot more financially stable than many schools of the time.


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 Post subject: Re: Being a Chalet School mistress?
PostPosted: 12 Sep 2020, 03:48 
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Yeah, a boarding school position in the first place would require a very specific personality - the lack of privacy, being on call all the time, being around the same small group of adults all day every day. If you were okay with that, for the CS

Pluses

- very supportive community once you were accepted
- unlimited time off for family emergencies/illness
- exotic location
- good climate
- excellent food
- pool of handsome, well to do doctors as future husbands
- very strong job security

Minuses

- isolated community with little to do outside of the school
- fairly insular, inward looking community
- lack of advancement opportunities
- far away from family
- being scoped out by doctors looking for wives

There would also be the issue of fitting in with the CS ethos. If you agreed with their approach to education/morality/religion/health you'd be welcomed and find it a warm and caring community. If you didn't, you probably wouldn't last out the term, and you'd be a staffroom cautionary tale for years to come.

Regarding travel - I wouldn't view the half-term expeditions as a travel bonus, as they mistresses would be fully occupied in supervising a bunch of hyper kids. But on vacations when they weren't on escort duty they'd have a good opportunity to travel around Europe. I've done work trips to exotic locations (like Hawaii) where the exotic travel aspect was non-existent, due to jet-lag, a brutal work schedule, and oxygen deprivation. I think I saw a beach from the airplane on the way out...

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 Post subject: Re: Being a Chalet School mistress?
PostPosted: 12 Sep 2020, 07:51 
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jennifer wrote:
There would also be the issue of fitting in with the CS ethos. If you agreed with their approach to education/morality/religion/health you'd be welcomed and find it a warm and caring community. If you didn't, you probably wouldn't last out the term, and you'd be a staffroom cautionary tale for years to come.



It would be interesting to see a mistress challenging that. I don't suppose Naomi was very pleased about being forced to attend religious services but, in the 1950s, even a 17-year-old couldn't really challenge school rules. What if a mistress didn't want to go? Back in the day, some employers did insist on attendance at religious services by live-in staff or those who lived in work-related accommodation in places like the Cadbury village at Bournville, but by the 1950s I'm not sure they'd have got away with it ... but what would the CS have done?

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 Post subject: Re: Being a Chalet School mistress?
PostPosted: 12 Sep 2020, 17:01 
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I would imagine it would have been in the job description - 'We are a school with a strong Christian ethos and would expect applicants to be suitably sympathetic and hold views in line with our ethos' or similar.
I'd guess applicants would know (hopefully) what they were getting themselves into.

I'd hate the lack of privacy and the feeling of being at work all the time - that would drive me nuts.

I wonder how decent the pay would have been, given that their room and board were included in the job. I'd guess it would be lower than day schools who would need to pay a wage enough for people to have mortgages, pay bills and so on. That then wouldn't leave staff an awful lot to be able to save with for a house etc in their own retirement.

On our road we have a home for retired teachers; they each seem to get their own little flat, but in a set up similar to an old folks home. I wonder if CS staff would have gone somewhere like that.


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 Post subject: Re: Being a Chalet School mistress?
PostPosted: 12 Sep 2020, 20:40 
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Bobcat wrote:
I would imagine it would have been in the job description - 'We are a school with a strong Christian ethos and would expect applicants to be suitably sympathetic and hold views in line with our ethos' or similar.
I'd guess applicants would know (hopefully) what they were getting themselves into.

I'd hate the lack of privacy and the feeling of being at work all the time - that would drive me nuts.

I wonder how decent the pay would have been, given that their room and board were included in the job. I'd guess it would be lower than day schools who would need to pay a wage enough for people to have mortgages, pay bills and so on. That then wouldn't leave staff an awful lot to be able to save with for a house etc in their own retirement.

On our road we have a home for retired teachers; they each seem to get their own little flat, but in a set up similar to an old folks home. I wonder if CS staff would have gone somewhere like that.

It's plausible. They had Herr Laubach living nearby and it's the sort of place that would make sure its ex-staff are looked after.


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 Post subject: Re: Being a Chalet School mistress?
PostPosted: 13 Sep 2020, 10:54 
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It reminds me of Nicky's (Sealpuppy) drabble Das Damenhaus which is in LGM
http://www.annersley.co.uk/viewtopic.php?f=10&t=352

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 Post subject: Re: Being a Chalet School mistress?
PostPosted: 14 Sep 2020, 22:19 
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At my boarding-school in the 1960s, most staff lived out, but the House mistresses lived in; they were given a bedroom, a sitting-room and (I think) their own private bathroom, although in my House the loo was shared with the sickroom, and there was a second cubicle in the House mistress' bathroom, which meant you were apt to be chatted to by a splashing House mistress while you were having your bath! As we only got three of these a week, this did not improve the experience! The House matrons just got a bedsit.

Nowadays, it is not assumed that the House mistress will be a single woman, and flats are provided, large enough to accommodate a spouse and small family.


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 Post subject: Re: Being a Chalet School mistress?
PostPosted: 14 Sep 2020, 22:49 
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Caroline OSullivan wrote:
It reminds me of Nicky's (Sealpuppy) drabble Das Damenhaus which is in LGM
http://www.annersley.co.uk/viewtopic.php?f=10&t=352



I thought of that one too, long time since it was updated


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 Post subject: Re: Being a Chalet School mistress?
PostPosted: 15 Sep 2020, 06:58 
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I imagine living outside the school would be quite a different experience, as would having a proper apartment. At the CS the only staff who live out are the men, Miss Denny (who has to look after her brother), and possibly Frau Mieders. At St Briaval's and the Platz, though, there really isn't any other place for them to live - finding space even for Herrs Denny and Laubach takes effort.

My impression of the CS is that the mistresses had private bedrooms, but the not private sitting rooms, and would use the communal staff room.

I wonder if the staff had the option of staying at the school over the vacations. It's fine if they have family they want to visit (and who are happy to have them stay for several months a year). But if a mistress didn't have somewhere to stay, that would be a significant added expense.

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 Post subject: Re: Being a Chalet School mistress?
PostPosted: 15 Sep 2020, 10:45 
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I know I've said this before, but I think it bears repeating. It's a bit earlier (1915) than even the first of EMBD's books, but as fiction goes, The Independence of Claire by Mrs George de Horne Vaizey is quite good on the financial and practical side of being a female teacher: http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/21098


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 Post subject: Re: Being a Chalet School mistress?
PostPosted: 15 Sep 2020, 11:29 
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Mrs Redboots wrote:
At my boarding-school in the 1960s, most staff lived out, but the House mistresses lived in; they were given a bedroom, a sitting-room and (I think) their own private bathroom, although in my House the loo was shared with the sickroom, and there was a second cubicle in the House mistress' bathroom, which meant you were apt to be chatted to by a splashing House mistress while you were having your bath! As we only got three of these a week, this did not improve the experience! The House matrons just got a bedsit.

Nowadays, it is not assumed that the House mistress will be a single woman, and flats are provided, large enough to accommodate a spouse and small family.

Yes much the same at my boarding school in the 1950s. I remember that quite a lot of the staff bought and shared houses in the town. Many of the older staff came from the generation of spinsters, left bereaved by the First World War.

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 Post subject: Re: Being a Chalet School mistress?
PostPosted: 15 Sep 2020, 11:51 
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It wasn't just an issue with boarding schools. Many of the younger staff at my school in the 1960s lived in bedsits or small rented flats, and routinely went back to their parents in the holidays.


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 Post subject: Re: Being a Chalet School mistress?
PostPosted: 20 Sep 2020, 02:18 
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Back in the 1960s one of my neighbours had different lodgers and a couple of them were teachers. One was a French Mlle over for a year and another was a teacher.in a Church school. In the Miss Read books younger teachers seemed to have problems finding good lodgings so it does seem to have been a problem and a boarding school might have been a solution.

I think it might have been a good job for some people for a limited period of time. It's the having to be with other people the whole time thing that I would not have liked. I wonder were there any mistresses who used hair washing, wanting to write letters as an excuse to spend an evening or two a week in her bedroom?

Although the Platz seems so claustrophobic, it really must not have been with Interlaken and even Berne quite close and lots of opportunities to go walking. Also Switzerland was right in the middle of Europe so a great chance to see other countries in the holidays.

A great job for the sociable.


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 Post subject: Re: Being a Chalet School mistress?
PostPosted: 21 Sep 2020, 04:43 
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I wonder why, in the 60s, women needed to find lodging rather than being able to have their own apartment (the way a single teacher would these days). It was at a period when women living on their own was acceptable - my Mom, in the late 60s, was teaching elementary school while sharing an apartment with a friend.

Was it a lack of places to rent, or that a teacher's salary couldn't afford more than a rented room, or that the schedule of teaching meant she would be unable to prepare her own meals, or that teachers weren't trusted to live without someone keeping an eye on their behaviour and morals?

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 Post subject: Re: Being a Chalet School mistress?
PostPosted: 21 Sep 2020, 13:25 
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There were a number of reasons.

Money: Women teachers were routinely paid less than male teachers up to 1961, and even after that wage differentials tended to remain.

Lack of accommodation: There was an acute shortage of housing post-WWII despite intensive council-house building. There was also significant slum clearance in the 1950s and the "new-build" housing was not sufficient to rehouse the people who had been living in the slums.


Housework: Rationing went on until 1953 and even after that there were shortages in some food areas so shopping could take up a significant amount of time. Keeping accommodation clean was much more time-consuming than it is now, particularly with the widespread use of coal and the concommitant dirt.


Discrimination: It was much more difficult for women to carry out any kind of business transaction - they would usually need a male guarantor if they wanted to rent, a hurdle men did not face.


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 Post subject: Re: Being a Chalet School mistress?
PostPosted: 21 Sep 2020, 18:13 
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Professional young females living in rooms or working girls hostels seems a pretty common trope in e.g. EJO’s non-Abbey books, mostly set betwen the wars.

Is there a chaperonage element here, too? A young woman living ‘in town’ in a hostel with other young women, or with a safe older woman landlady, being perceived to be more acceptable to her upper middle class parents, compared to living on her own.

For a boarding school teacher ‘living in’ for maybe more than half the year, who is going to want to rent them a flat for a month here, a month there, compared to an alternate renter wanting the whole year?


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