Saturday, September 5, 2009

School And The Teachers Who Taught Me - Part 2

continued from September 1, 2009

My first elementary school science teacher was tough. He really didn't like explaining things twice. He had a short fuse and was known to yell or make you feel very stupid for being late for class, unprepared/late homework, or asking him to explain something again. Science was never one of my better subjects, so that made it a little bit rough to say the least. For the most part, I stayed off of his radar, but I also was not one of his favourites. He didn't waste much time with me and that was fine by me as long as I passed. Even in high school, science was a hard course for me. In fact, if I hadn't gone to the Grade 9 teacher for extra tutoring, I never would have passed! He actually used to tell me when he was planning a quiz so that I could do extra studying. His help really made a difference. I took a very simple science course in Grade 10 - Physical Science 101. It was an intro combo of all the sciences - Physics, Biology and Chemistry. The teacher was good, but also a bit of a slacker as there were only 5 of us in the class. It was the only time I actually enjoyed science - and the last time I took it as it wasn't compulsory after that unless you were in university courses. I passed that one with a C+!

History was another one of those subjects that I just didn't get. It takes a special kind of teacher to make it come alive and feel real or relevant. I passed, but it took a lot of extra work. Grade 10 History 101 was a bit better as the teacher made it more interesting by relating stories rather than straight facts. The problem for me was that he said we needed a B average to get out of writing the final exam. He had made that clear early in the year - keep your grades up to a "B" or you write the final exam in June. Near the end of the year, I was getting a little nervous as I was on the border line. I knew the teacher had a sense of humour, so I caught a "bee" in a jar and went to see him after classes one day. I said; "Sir, we need a 'B' to pass right?" He said yes. I pulled out the jar with the "bee" in it and said: "Here's my 'bee' - do I pass?" He doubled over laughing. He said that wasn't exactly what he meant, but assured me that I was close enough to the mark that he wasn't going to make me write the exam! Phew!

One of my best friends was also worried about her science mark, so I lent her my "bee". She took it to our science teacher. He laughed even harder and assured her that he wasn't writing an exam for only one or two out of the five of us, so she passed as well! Amazing what a little creative thinking can do!

English was okay I guess, but it wasn't a simple course for me either. I could write stories/poetry, do book reviews and contribute to class discussions of books/literature but my grasp of grammar rules was pathetic. I couldn't tell what a dangling participle was or identify some parts of the sentence. I was lousy at spelling and identifying misplaced punctuation. Then there was my penmanship which even I had trouble reading! My marks weren't great, but I always passed with at least a C.

I tried taking typing in Grade 10, but that was a disaster. My left eye is the good one and yet the tables were all set up with the typing books on the right side. I had to do a contortionist routine to even see the book. The teacher finally managed to set up a special desk for me, but the type was still pretty small. There were no large print editions available. At the end of the year, she let me take a typing test from near the beginning of the book so that I could get my minimum 25 words/minute to pass with a D+. That was the lowest final grade I ever got in all 12 years of school.

In Grade 11, I took a current history course that was actually interesting. It focused on the last 50 - 60 years. We started at WW1 and worked our way up to the Vietnam war and Watergate. In Grades 10 and 11, I took business principles and an economics course. The teachers made the courses interesting - even though I really don't remember anything I learned!

Math was always an easy subject for me - it was always my A subject - but a lot of other students really struggled to get the basics. The teachers really make a difference in how they approach it. One of my junior high teachers was a no nonsense, by the book, old school teacher who taught by methods and formulas. If you didn't grasp the concept you were really in trouble and she let you know it. Luckily most of the teachers were pretty good at finding unique ways to relate the concepts and most kids were able to pass with at least a C.


September 9 - the conclusion of my tales from school

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