Monday Morning Musings

Posted on May 24, 2021 under Storytelling with 4 comments

A gift from Jobie. It says “welcome”.

 

“School days, school days,

Dear old golden rule days,

Reading and writing and ‘rithmetic,

Taught to the tune of a hickory stick.”

School Days

 

Do you want to hear about my last day at school? Of course, you don’t but I have nothing else to write about, so you’ll just have to suffer through this, all 1540 words.

Despite advanced age, most of us can still remember as children, the anticipation of the last day of school. Instead of the drudgery of school, we faced an endless summer of playing outdoors and going to the beach. I was an avid golfer and shortly after my report card was delivered home, I was on my way to the golf course.

“School’s out for summer,

School’s out forever.”

School’s Out – Alice Cooper

It is rather odd to end a school year at the end of May when it is still winter but that’s how it is in the north. As it turned out, it was a good thing that school ended the day it did because the morning after, we awoke to a blizzard, not to be confused with the tasty treat from DQ. Like so many other momentous days in our lives, sleep the day before a big event comes at a premium. Not that this would come as a surprise, but I was on the go at 4:50 a.m. on the last day of school, after what can only be considered a mediocre sleep. Adrenalin and the promise of a beer that evening would get me through the day.

Like many schools, ours is broken up into segments. The K-3 classes are a unit, followed by grades 4-6 and then secondary or high school. In our group there were two classes of 4, 5 and 6, English and French. I was blessed to have young, smart, energetic colleagues who took it upon themselves to plan out activities for the last few days of school.

Of course, the day started with the mandatory cleaning out of desks. There is something cathartic about tossing out all those notebooks and fossilized orange peels lurking in the bowels of one’s desk. When we were kids, the contents of our desk, along with projects and (gasp) even books, were amassed in an open field behind our neighbor’s house, creating a pretty impressive bonfire.

The students in the two grade six classes were “graduating” to secondary so a parade through the school was held. All of the students on the elementary side of the building made signs wishing the new graduates success. They stood in the hallways, clapping and cheering as the grade 6s paraded proudly downstairs and upstairs, ending the march at the entrance to the high school. I had never seen this done before but I have to admit that it was a pretty cool thing and one that the students aren’t likely to soon forget.

I decided to have a pizza party for my class after the parade. The school’s main kitchen called the Nirivik is handy to the art room. For practical purposes, I cooked the pizzas in the Nirivik and then carted them down the hallway to the art room. My students filled their bellies with pizza and some homemade chocolate chips cookies that I had made the day before. For background music, we listened to a collection of Inuit rap artists. Pizza and Inuit rappers… quite the combo!

“So let’s dance, the last dance,

Let’s dance, the last night,

Let’s dance this last dance tonight.”

Last Dance – Donna Summer

In the afternoon, each of the six classrooms (Grades 4,5,6 x2) hosted an activity. Every twenty minutes, students would rotate going to the next classroom until they had taken part in all activities. Not surprisingly, I decided that my class would be the music room. Last year, before Covid, the school held what was called Just Dance on the last Friday of every month. It was a chance for the entire school to go to the gym and let off some steam, dancing to music videos projected on to the wall of the gym. The videos were high octane featuring animated characters. Sadly, Covid put an end to that.

The high school students, by and large, were far too cool to take part in these dances but the younger children on the elementary side just went nuts on Just Dance days. When the students arrived in my class, I told them that I would award a prize (an Oh Henry chocolate bar) for the best dancer and singer. It was amazing. Even students who are generally reticent to take part in these types of activities were busting moves. Unbridled joy is the only way I can describe it. After three Just Dance videos, I accompanied the kids with my guitar as we sang Country Roads (every student in the school knows this John Denver classic) and a well- known Inuit song. They were all smiling and laughing as they exited my room.

And then, they were gone.

It was a fantastic day but unfortunately the day was not over. We had to rearrange our classrooms for parent teacher night that evening. You heard right. After an exhausting day we had to return to the school for two hours that evening to meet parents and hand out report cards. Walking to Ballantyne’s Cove (42km) was not nearly as tiring as this day!

One of my most challenging students arrived with her father. Even though we had our battles, I was very fond of this young girl. Her father thanked me for my service and told me that he and his daughter were both sad that I was leaving the community. He then presented me with a piece of handmade Inuit art (seen in the picture above). I’m sure there was a measure of fatigue involved but I had a lump in my throat at this expression of friendship and generosity.

I was running out of gas as I awaited the arrival of the last family. “Hi Len.” An 8-year-old girl from the grade 3 class was standing in front of me. “Will you sing me a song?”

It should be mentioned that on Parent-Teacher night, many of the parents bring some or all of their children with them. The children wander the halls.

In a previous post I mentioned that there is a program in the school called AIM. From K-3, all instruction is in Inuktitut. Once the students get to grade three, their family has to decide on French or English as a second language when they enter grade 4. While they are still in grade 3, they start to take introductory classes in English and French three periods a week. Part of my job description was to work with the grade three students who chose English. I used an excellent program called Jolly Phonics and along with some old Sesame Street episodes and my trusty guitar, I was able to give these children a start.

Now, the young girl standing in front of me was NOT in my grade 3 AIM class. She was in the group who went for French instruction. Her English was remarkably good. I went and grabbed my guitar. I asked her what song she would like to hear.

It should ne noted that on most occasions, I ended my AIM classes playing my guitar. Rather than put the guitar away, I would walk the students back to their home room. More often than not, we would be singing one of the songs that I had taught them, like Skinnamarink or Baby Beluga.

“Could you sing Ed The Invisible Dragon?” I would be surprised if any but a few of you would be familiar with this children’s song. I learned it last year. It was recommended by a friend who asked me to sing it for one of her children during one of my 55 Pillow Talk shows on Facebook.

A look of shock must have registered on my face. How could she possibly know this song when she wasn’t even in my class? Yes, she would have heard snippets of it in the hallway as this was a popular choice with my AIM students, but it was a surprising and mystifying choice. I was doubly shocked when she started singing the chorus with me, word for word.

There were many special moments from this last day of school but this one will stand out for me for a long time.

Part of the mystery was solved the next day when a colleague told me that the young girl had attended summer camp last August. Before school started last year, I volunteered at the camp five days a week doing music. There were a lot of children in this class that I didn’t know including the girl who now stood in front of me.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. Music is universal and it is powerful.

I crawled home at 8:30 p.m.

Reading, writing and arithmetic will always be the foundation of a child’s education. They can be easily measured.

There are other school experiences that are harder to quantify but are every bit as important.

Pizza and Inuit rap come to mind!

Have a great week.

Happy Victoria Day!

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