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Jo Morris, Salmond College Resident in 1980, Shares Her College Days

Jo Morris, Salmond College resident in 1980, talks about her time at Salmond, her life after university, and her current business as The Write Coach.

Jo Morris, Salmond College alumni, The Write Coach
Jo Morris

For my first week at Salmond College, I was terrified. I was late for the first dinner and, when I saw the hall full of people talking, I scurried back to my room. That night, I even went as far as wedging my chair under the door.

It was 1980. I’d flown for the first time, from Hamilton, riding a wave of hopefulness and anticipation to the city where my uncles and aunts had studied, and where two still lived with their families. My aunt dropped me at Salmond, and all of a sudden I was alone, knowing nobody and scared by the horrifying tales of initiation week that I’d heard.

However, by the start of the following week, the little communal kitchen on my floor had worked its magic: I had friends, some of whom were studying the same stuff I was. With one of those friends, I’d ventured up the hill to Knox and ended up in a cold shower, thrust there by another first year student who I’m still married to, more than 40 years later.

When I think of Salmond now, that first week pales into insignificance beside memories of walking through the Gardens watching ducks waddle on the frozen pond, watching Sting and Police singing Don’t Stand to Close to Me on the one TV, and making dresses from cheap lining fabric for the ball.

Salmond became a safe place to embark on becoming an adult. I finished my B.A. and then M.A. before becoming an English teacher – a job I relished for many years. I had no desire to run a school, but did become HoF English and Languages at Karamu High School in Hastings. As well, I became involved in the New Zealand Association of Teachers of English (NZATE) and worked on various phases of the writing and implementation of NCEA, through NZQA.

Salmond College
Salmond College

I’m driven by a desire to learn new things, so completed enough extramural papers that I accidentally collected a Graduate Diploma, which led to another Masters – this time in Creative Writing. Looking back, I can see that I was increasingly frustrated and bored – not by the teaching itself, which remains profoundly satisfying to me – but by the palaver that surrounds it. This turned into burnout, and I left teaching at the end of 2016. After a few months lying on the couch, I started my own business as a writing coach.

It’s been a rollercoaster ride. I’m in awe of young people who start their own businesses, of their courage and strength of will. I’ve had to learn from scratch; a teacher’s salary might not be amazing, but it’s regular, and arrives with the tax already paid! After 6 ½ years, though, I’ve arrived at a place I love. My business is based on the principle of helping people communicate effectively.

A year or so ago, I tried TikTok, on the urging of my daughter, and discovered I love it, so started making videos about writing and language. To my surprise, people wanted to watch them, and to my astonishment, there was enough interest that I appeared, in turn, in the (then) Dominion Post, RNZ and 7 Sharp.

My work is varied and satisfying. I work in schools still, with students and teachers, but also with businesses to improve their communications and house style. I mentor writers - poets, bloggers, memoirists, novelists. I run bespoke writing courses for individuals and groups. Basically, I wallow in writing all day, every day, living my best life.


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