Tuesday, January 9, 2018


     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.