Chatting with Yvonne Moore about her school memories in the good ol’ days made me think of my own in northern Ontario.
No, we didn’t walk five miles to school in snowdrifts (that was my dad’s era). We rode the bus, staying clear of the back seats, which held a group of entitled kids (those entitled to beat you up if you sat in their midst).
Our bus driver, Marty, was a decent guy who demanded respect. All he had to do was look at you in his mirror and all questionable behaviour stopped immediately.
My dad was the janitor of the elementary school (they call them custodians today). I used to tag along and help sweep the floors. When he wasn’t looking, I would rummage through the girls’ desks to see who had crushes on whom via little notes they had written on scraps of paper. What I was really looking for were notes from girls professing their love for me. I found a couple, which made me feel all warm and fuzzy inside.
One night while waiting for my dad to finish cleaning, I was playing in the schoolyard where several bullies jumped me. One looked like a pirate with a patch over one eye where an arrow penetrated it. That must have hurt. Anyway, I managed to squirm out of their grasp. My dad said he watched the whole scenario and was proud of me for standing up to them.
You wouldn’t dare back-talk your elders then, especially teachers or you’d be sorry. And we only learned what we needed to learn (Last week I tried helping my daughter with an assignment that was more suited to a building contractor than a Grade 11 student. It was quite ridiculous, actually, and only gave her sleepness nights).
I’m glad I’m not in school today because I’d be so stressed out trying to learn stuff I would likely never use.
There was one course we took in elementary school called SRA, which was speed reading. That was fun, and it was definitely practical because I still use it today. Everything was relevant and practical back then.
Although parents and teachers have lost a lot of control over kids today in terms of disciplining, I would not wish a return to the schools of yesteryear.
Some teachers ruled by fear, and entering their classrooms was like entering your worst nightmare. In my class, if you did something wrong, you could expect a good “shaking” by Mrs. Sharpe or Mrs. Pelling. Or knuckles in the back of the head by Mr. Hall, who used stealth in his discipline methods (you never saw him coming).
One thing I can say about today’s teachers is that most will bend over backwards to help students succeed. In fact, much of their success in life is directly related to the wisdom that their teachers imparted.
By Lyonel Doherty