From Fijitimes Online (25 April 2006)

Itu takes it easy, sort of

by Amelia Vunileba Wednesday, April 26, 2006

EVEN before we reach our final year in secondary school, most of us are already contemplating what career path to take.

Fesaitu Misau
Fesaitu Misau ... distinguished career as teacher

Over three decades ago, Fesaitu Misau sat in the principal's office at Lelean Memorial School and was asked what she wanted to become in life.

Mrs Misau said she had always wanted to be a nurse and when asked by Mr R S Udy, she told him of the career path she was thinking about.

"At that time, I wasn't sure what I wanted to become but I was thinking about nursing because I sort of liked their uniform," she laughed.

"It was immature thinking but when asked by Mr Udy why I wanted to become a nurse, I told him I wanted to help people," said Mrs Misau.

"There and then, he told me straight out that I was cut out to be a teacher and that's basically how I got into the teaching profession."

She has been a primary school teacher for 32 years a career that started in 1961 and ended when she retired in 1993.

Now 67-years-old, Mrs Misau tutors primary school students in Maths and English at the Kip McGrath Education Centre in Suva on a part-time basis.

She does that twice a week, although she says spending time with her grandchildren is very important to her.

Mrs Misau is known to many people, especially fellow teachers, relatives and friends as Itu, which is a shortened version of her first name.

Although later on in life we may be able to address some of our teachers on a first name basis, that respect we have for them doesn't make that easy or right and that was the case in this interview.

Now, after completing secondary school at Lelean, she went to Nasinu Teachers College and her first posting as a teacher was to Levuka Public School in 1961.

"At that time, the teachers there were mainly expatriates and mostly from New Zealand and when I was told that I was going there, I felt a bit scared," she said.

"I went with a Part-European girl and though we felt a bit uncomfortable at first and timid at times, we gained a lot of confidence from them and it was just a matter of getting to know them," said Mrs Misau.

"I learnt a lot from there and it has helped me in my teaching," she said.

From Levuka, she headed to Wesley Primary, in Toorak, Suva, then onto Annesley Primary before going to Veiuto.

She headed to St Mary's Primary in Labasa after that before returning to Veiuto where she taught until eventual retirement in 1993.

Of the five schools she taught at, Mrs Misau said her first posting was the best experience.

"Levuka, being my first teaching posting, was one of the best times I remember because we used to have planned sports for teachers."

She said there were not only a many expatriate teachers but many students as well.

With a career spanning just over 30 years, Mrs Misau is one who will readily agree that a lot of changes have happened and mostly in children.

"Children nowadays, I've noticed, are more quick in learning because I have to admit that teaching subjects like language then, was quite slow.

"I suppose kids nowadays have the advantage of technology which has helped them in some ways," she said.

"Before, we (teachers) had to go to the basics when teaching and a lot was done by teaching through sound.

"Much of our teaching was done through singing, poetry and games because this helped the students grasp what we were teaching quicker," she said.

"That was called Road Learning - you know, it's teaching as you go along and we used phonics a lot, it was one of the tools we used for teaching."

An incident that she remembers quite clearly, is when the father of a class two student in her class at Veiuto, asked her how she taught his son to read because at seven years of age, he was already reading The Fiji Times. "That parent was very impressed and that encouraged me because it was teaching through phonics that had really helped most of my students to read," she said.

Mrs Misau said an important factor in teaching students to read was to teach words phonetically, which basically means to break down the sounds in any particular word.

While teaching at Wesley Primary, she got married to Fatiaki Misau, who is today an Electoral Commissioner.

The couple have two sons and two grandsons, one of whom she looks after at home. "The elder grandson, Richard, is in Class Four at Veiuto and the younger one, Etika, is three years old and still at home," she said.

She now enjoys staying home with Etika, when she isn't tutoring and has been helping out at Veiuto ever since Richard entered Class One.

"Though I'm not teaching full-time, I still want to involve myself in my grandsons' schools because I believe that is very important in helping to nurture them."

Apart from that, she was president of the Rotuman Women's Association and Chief Commissioner with the Fiji Girl Guides Association.

Her involvement with the Rotuman Women's Association saw her organising activities to coincide with that of the Ministry of Women and the National Council of Women.

"We used to do craft work, mat weaving and had education and health programs that looked at family health as well."

While Chief Commissioner of the Girl Guides, she travelled to international meetings of the global association and most of what she learnt was passed on to local members.

I remember while in Veiuto that we used to have the Brownies, which is a part of the Girl Guides, but that has since ceased although Mrs Misau says it's still active in some schools.

Mrs Misau now plays more of one of her favourite sports lawn bowls and she says it not only gives her a chance to exercise but to socialise as well.

"I think it's important for women or anyone who retires from active employment to keep doing things to keep them busy," she said.

Because she was a teacher most of her life and still continues although on a part-time basis, Mrs Misau had some sound advice for aspiring teachers.

"I think it's important to be honest with your work because child psychology is very important and teachers should get to know the likes and dislikes of their children.

"For parents, it is important to pamper your child/children so that he or she will be eager to learn — you know, make sure that they don't cry in the morning when they are getting ready for school since the day is defeated if they start the day by crying.

"Parents should make sure they have a good breakfast and a healthy lunch and just spend as much time with children when at home and listen to them that is very important," said Mrs Misau.

Coming from a teacher who has had an illustrious career this is advice people shouldn't hesitate to take.