Tuesday, September 1, 2009

School And The Teachers Who Taught Me - Part 1

Forty five years ago this fall, I started school. I could have started the year before, as my birthday was right near the cutoff point for that year, but my parents decided to wait that extra year to give my eyes a little more time to develop. When I started in September 1964, there was no kindergarten offered in our school division, so I started in Grade 1.

Our elementary school was Grades 1 - 8. Each grade had two home rooms. Once we got to about Grade 3, we would switch rooms for some classes such as art and music. By Grade 5 we were switching three or four times/day depending on the subject. The classrooms were all either next door to each other or across the hall, so it wasn't a big deal - just a semi unruly bunch of kids passing in the hall while the teachers tried to keep our volume to a dull roar. The Grades 1 - 3 were in the oldest part of the school, while the Grades 4 - 8 were in a newer edition. The sections were divided by what used to be an old gymnasium that had been converted to the lunchroom and small assembly room for guest speakers and watching school films. The newest addition to the school was a gymnasium - quite modern for early 1960's. It was also used as an assembly hall and school dances for the upper grades. We never had a school library, rather each classroom had a few shelves of age appropriate books for us to read.

I don't remember a lot about those first few years. I can't quite recall all the teachers names, but I do remember that they were very kind, compassionate and understanding. One thing that did strike many of us kids as odd was that until about Grade five, all of our previous home room teachers retired or left the division after our class went through! I don't think we were that bad as kids, but then again some of the little darlings could be quite a handful. Not me of course! I was a perfect child. (Stop laughing!) Actually the grade 1 teacher was an older lady - a widow - who was close to retirement anyway. The next three were all young single women who left to get married. Most married women weren't working in those days.

By the time we hit Grade 5 we had specific teachers for art, music, French and physical education. In Grades 6 and 7 we had teachers for science, history, math and English as well. I don't recall if we still had art and music in those grades but I do recall that there was a choir we could join and of course I did!

In 1971, the same year I reached Grade 8, a very large edition had been built and was ready for use at the local high school. It was now a huge school with a large library/study hall, a full size gymnasium, science labs, business/office department, industrial arts and home economics. There were three large open air areas for English, Math and History. Each area was subdivided, by portable blackboards, into four classrooms. There was a band room and a full sized theater with graduated level seating for 350 people in plush chairs with pull up writing tables on the right arm. That area could be divided into three sections for additional classroom space or additional seating could be added for performances and assemblies. The theater boasted a raised stage, lighting panel and other necessities for putting on full theatrical performances.

So, in September 1971, the Grade 7 and 8 classes were moved to the new high school. It was a whole new universe with grades 7 - 12 and over 650 students from all over the division.

It is important how much effort you put into your studies, but some subjects just don't come easily for even the best of students. The teachers can make all the difference in how well you do and how much you actually learn in any given course or subject. Some teachers were great and some - well - left a lot to be desired. I had more good teachers than bad, but there were a few that I really could have done without. There were also a few that I couldn't have passed courses without their help and understanding

Physical Education was never a good class for me. I was very uncoordinated and couldn't do a lot of the sports that other kids could do. Until about Grade 3, our home room teachers would take us to the gym for exercises and games. The first full time phys. ed. teacher started working with the kids at about Grade 4. He was a real by the book drill sergeant type. If you couldn't meet the minimum standards you were on his hit list and he worked you harder. I tried to talk to him, but he didn't get it. I think it was the principal that finally intervened along with my mom over one parents day meeting, but he did let up on me a bit. I passed but hated phys. ed after that.

In high school we were only required to take Phys. Ed. through Grade 10. The teachers were actually pretty understanding of my abilities (and lack thereof). I was close to failing in Grade 10 - I had a D- by early May. The teacher had given several tests through the year which involved knowing rules for various sports and other basic physical education stuff she had taught. She told me that she would let me rewrite all of those tests. If I got and A in all of them she would pass me. If I didn't, I would have to repeat the whole Grade 10 class while I was in Grade 11. Talk about incentive! I passed them all and never took Physical Education again!


September 5 and Septembr 9: More tales from my school years!

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