Tuesday, January 9, 2018

NOW THE WORK BEGINS

     When I arrived at the little Louisville school in early September of 1958, I had not had my 19th birthday.  Yes, a teenager had been hired to teach in  school for one year.

     So I had to get busy. I had to find books and supplies that had been dropped off over the summer. It had been impressed on us in Teachers' College that the school register was a very important legal document. I also had to find the last year school register to see who my students would be and what grades they were in.

     I also had to set up a timetable. Since there were seven different grades there had to be time for each grade in each time period. I also had to know how many minutes per day for math and all the other subjects.

     A school board member did drop in to introduce himself and welcome me and give support.

     So the first day of school arrived and this nervous teenager was willing to give his best shot for these kids. All kids were dropped off by parents. Two kids arrived on a small pony. I rang the bell promptly at 9:00. My mind is blank after that. Somehow we got organized. 

     These kids were used to a brief lesson and then working on their own. The older kids could spend more time on their own. The little guys needed attention. Plasticine kept them occupied for only  short time. The primary program was detailed in guide books. I had to consult the guide book the night before and then I was ready for the little guys. I also found an old window blind that I carefully printed their vocabulary on and drilled them whether they needed or not. Something that came to me years after is that many kids come to school knowing how to read. As I look back George, knew how to read but he stilled jumped through all the hoops. I'll never for get one day how he played the dummy and pretended he didn't know the words. He screwed up his eyes and acted as if he didn't know the words. The rest of the kids were watching and burst out laughing as they knew he was faking it.

     I also had drills in math for kids to learn their time tables.

     These kids were extremely well behaved. Now the teacher before me had serious problems and kids had misbehaved. I was warned by some of the people to be stern. I think I scared these little guys.

     I had no ability in art or music. I faked my way through these subjects. The powers that be were satisfied if I tried. At that time the department of education had a weekly music program. I would turn the radio on and we would have our weekly music lesson.

    Recess and noon hour were great times. Sometimes I went out and organized activities but most of the times they just loved to play.

    The old school building was in pathetic condition. It was very cold in the winter. There was a wood and coal stove but it would go out over night and when I got to school in the morning I would have to light a fire. Many days we pulled the desks around the stove and worked until noon when the room had warmed up. 

    There were people in the district who didn't have children. I remember two farm guys who were pretty rough and crude around the edges. They would go through the school yard when they were hauling hay and stop in to visit me. They were harmless but very unsophisticated.

     At that time there were school superintendents who usually made a yearly inspection. This made teachers rather nervous. One day in September I happened to notice a gentleman looking in the doorway. I thought he might be the superintendent and he was. I just kept on teaching and he stood and watched. When there was a little break , he gave me a nod to come outside. What now. We sat down on the step and had a chat. He just wanted to know how things were going. He had a few directions to give me. He had delivered some supplies. He was very encouraging. I've never forgotten Harry Smith who as so helpful in my first year of teaching.

    I usually went back to school after supper to do some marking and prepare for the next day. There was no electricity in the school so I had to light the gas lamp. It was pleasant working in the very quiet of the room. When I finished my work the lamp went out and I walked the half mile home in the dark. In the winter there were huge snowbanks to walk over. Moonlight nights were awesome and often there were northern lights.

    When I came back after Easter. I had a big surprise. The people I was boarding with had sold their farm and were moving. No problem . They decided where I would stay. The second place I stayed was fantastic. What meals! In three months I gained lots of weight.

    The farmer would hire aboriginals to pick stones off his land. They would come to the farm with their horses and live in a tent. One night they came to the house and wanted to go back to the reserve. The farmer didn't want to take them back as he knew he might lose his workers. I didn't know that so I said I would take these guys back. What an adventure! It was later in the evening and was dark. Reserves in those days didn't have roads or electricity. They would tell me to drive to one place and they all went into the house and I stayed in the car. They were visiting and getting clothes and food. This happened for all four guys I had in the car. One guy didn't come back and I picked up a new guy. I got back about midnight. Everybody in the district had a good laugh about my experience.

     At the new place I was sometimes given a very ancient army truck to drive to school. Sometimes I couldn't shift gears and drove the four miles to school in first gear.

   The learning curve in my first year of teaching was steep. I was quite proud on myself and I'm sure I had matured a great deal.




    
   

35 comments:

  1. What wonderful experiences you have had!
    I missed going to a rural one room school by one year. The new consolidated grade school opened just for me! So my experiences were very different from yours.

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    1. These schools were being phased out when I started teaching in 1958. Most were still operating when I went to school.

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  2. Wow! It reads like a male version of Anne of Green Gables. She was a teenager when she taught her first classes, too. Love it, Red! More, please. :-)

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    1. There were many teen age teachers before me as there was a huge teacher shortage. I was not doing anything that was new.

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  3. I enjoyed reading about your experiences. You've led quite an adventurous life in the north.

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    1. This one was in northern Sask. but still in the agricultural area.

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  4. I have enjoyed reading snippets of this post to my teacher-in-training. She will take her first student placement in two weeks time, it will be her first time in a classroom at the age of 19.

    Four miles in first gear!!!

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    1. Much success to the teacher in training.

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  5. I love that story about driving around with the guys and being taken from house to house. What an amazing adventure you had! And thank goodness those music lessons were on the radio!

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    1. One thing for sure the teachers learned a few things about music.

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  6. Such different times! I remember my principal sitting evaluating me, writing down every word I said. Yikes.
    Happy trails!

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    1. Teacher evaluation has gone through many phases. That's another topic I could write about.

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  7. Looks like you learned as much as your students.
    And this was what I'd call heroic teaching - what circumstances you worked under!

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    1. At that time it was the usual way the education system was set up. Nothing heroic at all.

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  8. I really enjoy these posts. What wonderful experiences you've had! Quite the adventure.

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    1. Opportunities were available and i took advantage of them. I'm not a person who plans or has goals. Things just happen.

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  9. What experiences for you to have had!

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    1. These were not unusual as the education system was set up that way.

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  10. Lucky you to have lived such an interesting life. Good thing you were tall, helped keep some of those other boys in line.

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    1. I'm still living an interesting life at 78. The kids were young . With the exception of one boy one boy the others were in gr one and two.

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  11. Where was this one room schoolhouse, Red? Fascinating post.

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    1. 13 miles east of Mervin, Saskatchewan , Canada.

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  12. You've experienced something most teachers never have -- the one-room school. I think it's great that you are writing about it for just that reason.

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    1. No to be honest, the education in a one room school was extremely limited. Very few kids learned to read.

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  13. What a great experience, you learned so much and the kids did too. Great story, Red. I enjoyed your peek in to the past.

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    1. To be honest the one room school did not delivery a high quality education.

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  14. We had very similar experiences of teaching at the age of nineteen Red - both of us thrown in at the deep end and expected to swim. My school was on Rotuma Island in the South Pacific.

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    1. You had the formidable challenge of a different culture.

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  15. How interesting! I remember my father telling me about the one room school house he went to. Thanks for sharing Red!

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    1. Out here there were thousands of these little schools until about 1950 and then they began to phase them out.

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  16. Now that is a great piece of history Red! I really enjoyed reading it especially with all your details:)

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  17. 19??? Oh my gosh! That's totally amazing! I know you were an amazing, well loved teacher.

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  18. It sounds like you had a genuine affection for your kids, which I think is essential for a teacher to truly be effective. More stories, please! These remind me of my mother's stories and I always enjoy hearing them (both from her and from you).

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  19. There is something very rewarding reading biographies of 'ordinary' folk (ie not politicians).

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  20. My Granddaughter is teaching second year. She has grade 1 to 8. All separate class's. As now the kids are less now going to school . Parents sticking to approx two children per family. person. She said the Grades ones are so like Art Link letter wrote a book of them years ago and then had his show. For an example. One child said after the holidays. Did you get married? My Granddaughter. No I didn't. Student . You should of. My Granddaughter. I have not a boyfriend. Student. Then you better find one. Kids say the funniest things. You were a very good looking young teacher and you had the natural skill to be one with your personality as well as your education. I like everyone else enjoys the peek of your past. My Granddaughter teaches, Music, French, drama . She sings lovely as well. Another teacher teaches Math. My Granddaughter had two years of bad health . She so persevered. She could not take the stairs to walk up to get the children in small grades. So half the year the Principal allowed all the students to come to her. She woke up one day and could not walk. So her first years was physically hard. Now a miracle has happened. She can walk those stairs. Red in a month the school is transferring to another school and no stairs. So she has certainly had her testing being a teacher. She said there was a reason for all this. To make me stronger. And to appreciate all my students. And thanking everyone and the parents for all prayers. You can read Red and delete if you may. I wanted to share with you. I would of loved you to be my teacher. So your students were blessed to have you and being so young for starters.

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