Sandefjord, Vestfold, Norway
Sissel, who obtained a broad education both as a student and as a teacher, is still very fond of singing. Music has played a very important part of her life, both in her teaching profession and in her leisure.
She was born in Oslo, Norway, where she lived the first 22 years of her life. In 1957, she graduated from Sinsen Grammar School and, in 1961, from the teacher training college in Oslo. Before attending university, she spent a year in Kungälv, Sweden, at the Nordic Academy. Every summer, a group of former students meet in one of the Nordic countries and stay at a high school for a week. She has been a member of the board arranging the summer meetings. This year (2012), there is a meeting in Iceland.
She attended the teacher training college for two years. During the second year, groups of five students visited three primary schools in different parts of Oslo. For three months at each school, the students received exercises from the form masters. They visited these schools once a week and took part in the school activities, being responsible for one lesson each. While one student was teaching, the other four sat listening at the back of the classroom with the form master. At the end of the day, they usually had an educational discussion before receiving the exercises for the following week. Several years later, Sissel became a coach for teacher students.
In 1961, she commenced teaching music, English, Norwegian, and history at a college where she enjoyed living together with the students. The school is located in Skjeberg, not far from the city of Fredrikstad in the south-eastern part of Norway. After one year of teaching, she turned to studying psychology at the University of Oslo, obtaining her degree in 1963. Then she moved to Sandefjord, where she was engaged as a teacher in a secondary school.
During the academic year 1964-65, she and her husband Osvald lived in Notodden, where he obtained his degree in art and handicraft and she taught Norwegian, English, and mathematics at the junior high school.
The next year, both were teaching in a secondary school in Sandefjord. Then she went to Oslo to study English at the university, obtaining her degree in 1967.
In the same year, she and Osvald moved northwards to teach in the secondary school in Alta, Finnmark. The group of pupils whom she taught had less than normal progress during primary school. The teachers were told at the beginning of the school year that they were mentally retarded. However, most of the pupils turned out to be happy at school and fond of learning. They had had defective or incomplete education during their first seven years. It was difficult to hire qualified teachers at that time. Another reason was that some parents lacked interest in their children’s school work. They did not see the value of attending school when there was work to do at sea or on the farm. It was interesting to see how eager those pupils were to learn and how hard they worked to achieve better marks. Some of them actually obtained better marks than some of the pupils in normal classes.
After a working day in a school with 800 pupils, the couple usually left town and set out for the mountain plateau to fish and pick cloudberries. They enjoyed life in Finnmark.
Returning south, they purchased a house with a beautiful garden which is now filled with flowers and fruit trees. They raised two children, a girl and a boy, after which she decided to return to her profession as a teacher in a Norwegian primary school in Spain which turned out to be a challenge for her. She taught the pupils from the first, second, and third classes in one group in a room in a garage! After that year, she felt that she needed to learn more in order to take care of young pupils in such a way that their school day might be a pleasant one.
She studied music for a year and obtained a degree in 1988. Also in that year, she introduced the play Peer Gynt, written by Henrik Ibsen, to her 6th form students. They prepared a performance with music, song, and ballet. Now and then the class invited the parents to a singing lesson and presented songs from the fifties and sixties. Everyone enjoyed the lessons. Sissel loved to present pupils with pleasant lessons. Smiling children always meant much to her.
As coach, Sissel was awarded scholarships to visit schools in England to seek new educational methods, which she later shared with her colleagues. It was interesting to notice how the English schools used the whole school building even the corridors as their working area.
In 1989, a school in York obtained its first computer, which would be used by 30 pupils. Ten years later, pupils at Sissel’s school who found their studies difficult, were offered a computer. This turned out to be very useful in their studying, especially for mathematics and language.
The Kailash Bodi School was established in Manali, Nepal, in 1989 with 25 pupils and one teacher. The children, whose parents were mainly stonecutters, received an all-round modern education. The school improved the lives of a tribal people from the foothills of the western Himalayas.
The main school was established in Kathmandu, the capital city, in 1993. Sissel’s school in Sandefjord helped with the financing of the main school. They arranged a market, selling products which the children had made during their handicraft and art classes. In 1996, they sent 60,000 Norwegian kroner (equivalent of several thousand Canadian dollars) as a contribution to the developing of the school.
In 1997, she and Osvald, along with a group of supporters, were invited to visit the school which, at the time, comprised 400 students in 10 classes. The Nepalese students received their Norwegian guests with open arms and proudly showed them their simple classrooms. They were happy to receive books and pencils as gifts. Her pupils in Sandefjord and a group of 30 pupils in Kathmandu became penpals. She and her husband are still in contact with Kailash Bodi School and are planning on visiting it in November 2012. When Dalai Lama visited Oslo in 2000, they were present to greet him.
A memorable experience is the handicraft lessons when they made woollen blankets with carving patterns which were produced over a span of several thousand years in Scandinavia. The motifs are hunting scenes and pictures of plowing, although boat figures dominate. They used soft sheep wool with hot water and soft soap to form small pieces which were sown together to make a blanket.
Sissel has been a member of several choirs, with the most interesting one being the World Festival Choir, which was founded in 1985, the European Music Year. The opening concert took place in Gothenburg, Sweden, where 2,500 singers presented Handel’s Messiah. In 1990, the choir presented Verdi’s Requiem in Rome together with Luciano Pavarotti, popular Italian operatic tenor. In 1994, Placido Domingo, Spanish tenor and conductor, was in Oslo in a grand opera gala with World Festival Choir.
In 1994, she participated in a musical trip around the world with Orff-Instruments arranged by a school in Vienna, Austria. They worked in groups with songs accompanied by Orff-Instruments, dance and movements to music, folk dancing, and music with Brazilian rhythm written for Orff-instruments.
In 1999, World Festival Choir with 500 members from many different countries, together with the National Opera of China Chorus, celebrated the 50th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China with a concert in the Great Hall of the People, in Beijing.
As a retired teacher, she has spent years weaving tapestries on a loom, playing the piano, and singing in a small group of female teachers. They visit homes for elderly people to encourage them sing together with the group. There have been many memorable experiences from 41 years in school and more in her retirement.
(This page was updated in July 2012.)