Carol White’s first teaching job was to lay the groundwork for the rest of her career – it was at the liberal and multicultural Wellington Technical College (later Wellington High). She went on to teach at Kawerau and Northcote colleges before landing a job at Selwyn, where she became co-principal with John Kenny. Under their leadership, Selwyn College grew from a mainly middle-class Pākehā school to one that educated students from 57 countries and 80 ethnicities, babies through to octogenarians, with nearly half of them speaking English as a second language and a number of refugees.
Controversy dogged the school, with families, media and politicians blaming the ‘Selwyn way’ for everything from so-called ‘race riots’ to ‘white flight’. But Carol’s approach was also welcomed by many as holistic and humanitarian, and she received an ONZM for services to teaching.
'A Teaching Life' is a frank and thoughtful memoir that shows how Carol’s teaching philosophy grew out of an unusual childhood and a desire to give her students a safe place to learn and to heal. As the daughter of an often depressed and occasionally violent man, she knew the corroding effect of shame and fear. From her vegetarian theosophist mother, Carol learned the power of the non-traditional approach.