Hello September

English: Picture of Dillon Hall, part of the U...

English: Picture of Dillon Hall, part of the University Of Windsor, ON Campus. Category:Images of Windsor (Photo credit: Wikipedia) I TOOK MANY OF MY ENGLISH COURSES IN THIS BUILDING–IT IS ABSOLUTELY BEAUTIFUL, AND OLD!

This is my weekly column for the newspaper–in it I reveal a secret I have mostly kept to myself for years, but in sharing it I hope it makes teachers and principals realize how important they are, for many reasons. My high school, KDHS (Kingsville District High School) is in the town of Kingsville, on Lake Erie in Ontario for those of you unfamiliar with the terrain, and the University of Windsor is in Windsor, Ontario, a border city with Detroit, Michigan right across the river:

An Ode to the Teachers Who Cared

            The beginning of the school year seems to be the perfect time to write an open letter to all the teachers who made a difference in my life—the good teachers, the generous ones, the ones who did not judge, those who encouraged, and those who cared. And there were many of them. So without further ado:

Dear Teachers Who Cared; Who Loved Their Subject; Who Made Me Care:

            As another school year starts, I cannot help but remember the teachers I had who were encouraging; even if in their encouragement they were not always complimentary. Sometimes when a teacher expects more from you than you are giving, you pull up your socks and try to meet their expectations. When it is your work that is looked at critically and not you as a person, then you learn to grow. And you learn how to correct your mistakes.

            My academic career was not always a smooth one.  Something I have not revealed before is the reason. Plain and simple I was bullied when I was in grade nine. It is hard to admit because I never like to admit I was a victim. I fought back successfully, but not before it affected me and my grades (temporarily). Being bullied makes you question why you are the one “centred out” for “special” treatment— treatment that was unwanted and more than a little unpleasant. Now what is this confession doing in the middle of a letter to teachers who cared? Well, I had some teachers who cared. And a principal who cared.  And with their help and that of my parents, the bullying stopped. So, any teachers reading this today should know that you can make all the difference in the world to the kids you teach.

            Now back to my ode: I had a teacher in grades nine and ten who loved history, and her love of history was palpable—and even though I went through some tough times in grade nine—I loved her subject, looked forward to her class, and my grades showed it. Even my math teacher in grades nine and ten got me through math with her love of the subject and the fact that she explained everything so thoroughly, that even someone of my pedigree was able to grasp the concepts.

            In grade 13, KDHS was the first high school in the area to offer political science, and it was taught by a teacher who had been teaching history forever—and to be honest, he was probably getting a little tired of it. But when he was given a chance to teach something new, something for which he had a real affinity—it was like giving him a new lease on life. It was perhaps one of the best courses I have ever taken. The predecessor to that course was “world politics” taught by of all things, the music teacher. He had great passion for the subject (though it may not have been his first love) and a real rapport with his students. Today, because of those two teachers, I faithfully watch Evan Solomon on Power and Politics while eating my supper. (And needless to say, have covered municipal politics for our lovely town for years).

Ambassador Bridge, between Windsor Ontario and...

Ambassador Bridge, between Windsor Ontario and Detroit Michigan (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

   At university I enrolled in Communication Studies and English, a double major chosen first because of my love of English, and second because I was made aware of a program I did not know existed. I give credit for this choice to my grade 13 Creative Writing English teacher. He had a series of people who attended university come in and talk to us, and one student talked ardently about the Communication Studies course, a fairly new program offered at the University of Windsor. That was when I made my decision to go to Windsor and take the course—which involved television, film, radio, and journalism courses. My point here is that this teacher cared—he took the time to provide us with knowledge we would not have had otherwise and helped some of us make decisions about our post-secondary education.

            I took two English courses in grade 13—and the other one led me to my love of Shakespeare—I took all and sundry Shakespearean courses at university too. This teacher was famous for letting his students put on Shakespearean plays, (with appropriate sets and costumes) and we had a riot while learning the Bard’s rich and at times opaque language.

            Well, I am running out of room for this week’s column—it is obvious I have a lot of teachers to thank. So as this new school year begins—Teachers: take heart, you do make a world of difference. And Students: take advantage of what your teachers have to offer.

Setting the Bar Low

“Every man has one thing he can do better than anyone else and usually it is reading his own handwriting.” ~ G. Norman Cole

Tongue in cheek

Tongue in cheek (Photo credit: pcgn7)

On first reading, this quote made me smile. Then it made me think, as I am sure that is what it was meant to do, however tongue in cheek the wisdom may seem.

We do not seem to see our strengths but know all our weaknesses. Sometimes we bask in our failures. Marinate in what we deem our mediocrity and lack of success instead of seeing that success is in the eye of the beholder, but that eye is often much too critical.

I am not saying that we should be satisfied with just being able to read our own writing, I am saying it is a stepping stone–a metaphor for accepting ourselves and the fact that maybe we have something of value to say.

What do you think?

Published in: on June 28, 2013 at 9:50 am  Comments (38)  
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A memorial of sorts

One Room School

One Room School (Photo credit: W9NED)

This is a shortened version of my column for the newspaper:

Sometimes writers need prompts. Something to get the juices flowing. This morning a prompt from WordPress read: “A place from your past or childhood, one that you’re fond of, is destroyed. Write a memorial.”

And do you know what immediately came to mind? The one room school house that I attended for the first four years of my school life. It was called  Zion — and yes, we walked about a mile and a half to school (it seemed like five miles) but not in bare feet, or in ten feet of snow.

I cannot remember when the school was torn down, but whenever I pass the spot where it stood, a wave of nostalgia passes over me. I wish it were still standing, though if it were, it would probably have been turned into someone’s residence as so many of the smaller schools have been. Students who attended these schools were eaten up by either regional or town schools, but their experiences at the one room schools would never be lost.

I loved and hated that school. We were exposed to such a variety of kids that it really did stand us in good stead for a life that is made up of all kinds of people, and not just kids our own age. You learned how to cope, how to get along, and you learned that life was not always easy.

What I loved about the school was the fact that we were exposed to a unique learning experience. We learned our lessons, but were able to “listen in” on the lessons of the other grades, and if you were an eager student you garnered an education above your years. We did a lot of things together as a whole school. We played baseball together; we had a school choir where we competed at a yearly concert; we practiced for the yearly Christmas concerts together; and we exchanged names for Christmas gifts.  You were just as likely to end up with some grade eight boy’s name, as the girl who sat next to you in your grade.

What I hated about the school were the things most students would hate about any school—if you were picked on, or you were not quite up to snuff in sports, or if you were the teacher’s pet. But those were all valuable learning experiences as well, if not the most pleasant. (I still remember being taught how to make an iceball—a snowball with ice in the middle that hurt like heck if you got hit with it.)

One of the best things about a one room school for me was that the teacher had to divide her time among all the grades, so when she was not teaching you, you had all the time in the world to do your lessons, then read as much as you wanted. Since I loved to read, this was a real bonus for me.

After grade four,  I was moved to a regional school and put in a classroom of kids who were my own age. It was quite a transition. We had a teacher who was available to us all throughout the day, which was a good thing, but left little time to be on your own.

I am glad that I got to experience both ways of being educated. I would never give up the things I learned at the one room school house. To this day, I miss being able to see a piece of my history. The school was the same one my parents and aunts and uncles attended, and even some of my grandparents.  It was the true essence of community.

I will never bid a fond farewell to Zion—it will always be fraught with sadness.

Where is the bliss? Not in the fact that the school was torn down, but in the fact that it was a piece of my history. What piece of your history is missing, but still remembered?

~ Scary? ~

This is a film my son  made for a film competition at  college for Halloween.  He won the competition. As his proud mother I am sharing it with you. I really had to talk him into letting me put this on my blog, but he finally acquiesced.

The judging for the competition was not over until after Halloween, hence you are seeing it in November. November can be scary too.

This is the same son that I posted a picture of a couple of days ago when he was six. He is now 21. I thought it was funny. If you do not think it is funny, do not tell me. Any accolades will be gladly accepted.

Without further ado–I present the next Spielberg, or George Clooney, or Godzilla–you decide:

Published in: on November 7, 2012 at 5:35 pm  Comments (30)  
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~ D ~ Or Who Wins?


Just Another Fractured Haiku

119/365 - dunce

119/365 – dunce (Photo credit: foreverdigital)

Dunce cap perched on head

Joke is on you teacher dear

I got out of math

Actually the joke, in the end, was on me. I am still math challenged even though I never really did stand in a corner with a dunce cap.


Published in: on September 4, 2012 at 1:10 pm  Comments (24)  
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