Continued from September 1, 2009 and September 5, 2009
Art, Music and French were optional after Grade 9. I dropped them all. Art wasn't really that much fun even though the teacher was a bit eccentric. Music was interesting, but it was focused on band music and learning an instrument. When we first started music in junior high, the teacher - a former symphony conductor - and supposed descendant of a renowned classical composer - had looked at all our hands, lips and body types to determine what instrument we should learn. He didn't care if that what wasn't what we were interested in - it was what he believed we would be suited for. I was given a clarinet. I didn't mind that too much, but I had wanted to learn the saxophone. He informed me that there was no room in a real orchestra for a lowly saxophone. Reading the music while attempting to coordinate my fingers on a clarinet wasn't working for me. The second music teacher was a lot more open minded and I probably would have kept going, but he only stayed a year. His replacement was somewhere between the two, but I had enough classes to keep me busy so I dropped it.
I do regret dropping French, but I was having enough trouble with History, Science, Phys. Ed and mastering the spelling and sentence structure of English - all of which were required subjects - let alone learning another language as an option!
Once we were in high school, all the students were required to take either home economics (cooking and sewing) or industrial arts (woodworking, electronics/mechanics and graphic arts). Of course being a country area school, this was almost strictly gender divided. By Grade 10, we were allowed to choose, but norms were rarely crossed.
As a female, I of course took Home Ec. The year was divided into two sections. Half the year would be spent in cooking and the other half in sewing. My grandmother had been a home economist, and she and my mom taught me many of the basics. I had also been in 4H for several years during elementary school. Home Ec. was a natural for me - at least part of it was! I enjoyed the cooking much more than the sewing, but I had a really great relationship with the sewing teacher. She didn't pressure me or push me beyond my abilities. She judged my work fairly and allowed others to help me with things like threading needles or seeing really small print for patterns. I made a pair of plaid pants in Grade 8. In Grade 9, I made a skirt and top. In Grade 10, we were allowed to create our own designs or make something completely different. I made a bean bag chair. That was harder than it sounds and I'll write about that someday.
Anyways, even though I didn't really like sewing - and haven't touched a needle and thread since - I really liked the teacher. She was easy to talk to, a good listener and a level sounding board for our teenage angst. I often went to talk to her after school and think of her as one of the best teachers I ever had. She met her husband while teaching there - he was also a teacher and together they spent their entire teaching careers at that school. They just retired a year or so ago.
I didn't ace all of my courses, but I did pass everything. I was exempt from writing final exams from Grade 8 through 12 and graduated with honours. It took a lot of hard work, but I couldn't have done it without some fantastic teachers who took that extra step to bring the subjects alive or to help a student better understand the subject.
Teachers are greatly under appreciated, overworked and underpaid. Sure they get the summers off, but many take upgrading courses over the summer or work on their curriculum for the coming year. During the year, they spend countless hours doing preparation and grading. Many volunteer their time for extra curricular activities in sports, arts, clubs and any other number of interests to the students.
They are there to shape our minds and prepare us for life beyond the classroom. Some are obviously gifted at what they do and make learning an enjoyable experience. Others, well, you can't help but wonder why they became teachers.
The trick is to be a sponge and absorb everything you can while you can and not to let the tough ones discouraging you from doing your best.
So to all my teachers - thanks! Ya done good!