Wednesday’s Words of Wisdom

Posted on July 3, 2024 under Wednesday’s Words of Wisdom with no comments yet

On the wings of a dove.


“School days, school days, dear old golden rule days,

Readin’ and ‘ritin’ and ‘rithmetic, taught to the tune of a hick’ry stick.”

“School Days” – Cobb and Edwards

I recently finished up another school year as a substitute teacher. Over the past two years, I think I have taught every conceivable subject and have seen students from as young as pre-primary to grade 12.

I have a few observations.

First of all, some clarification. I did not technically “teach” every subject at every grade level. No school administrator in their right mind would turn me loose in an auto mechanic shop or woodworking shop and ask me to instruct.  Liability insurance has its limits. Let’s just say that in addition to shop, at a minimum, I have taught, and in many cases observed, Gaelic classes, grade 12 physics, music, physical education. “Cead mile failte.”

I have also filled in for guidance teachers, a case of the blind leading the blind!

What has changed since I entered the teaching profession 48 years ago?

In many ways, the model hasn’t changed much. An educator stands at the front of a group of students in a rectangular classroom and imparts knowledge. The students consume this information and regurgitate it in some form. The tools for instructing and learning have changed significantly with Smartboards, Chromebooks and Google Classroom but the principles are more or less unchanged. Principals have changed, or should I say, their job description. Like hockey, the enforcer role, has all but been eliminated.

I spent most of my substitute days with Junior High students. This has always been a very challenging age. I need not elaborate. Back in the dark ages, a teacher’s primary role was to teach. The students listened, teachers had the support of the parents, and authority was rarely challenged.

These days it is difficult to tell just who is in charge.

The cases of anxiety amongst students (and teachers!) have risen dramatically over the years. In my own mind, there is little doubt that the internet and social media are the main culprits. I am neither a psychiatrist, physician, or addictions counsellor but I think internet addiction is very real. Students and adults alike are tethered to their electronic devices. Walk into a school cafeteria these days. They are still very noisy places but virtually every student is holding a cell phone. One wonders what this is doing to our collective brains.

Hands up. How many of you know the name Ken Dryden? If you’re a hockey fan, you know that he was a storied goaltender for the Montreal Canadiens back in the 1970s. Some of you remember him as a Member of Parliament. He is also a prolific author. Ken is smart and thoughtful. A “must read” for educators (IMHO) is Ken’s book “In School: Our Kids, Our Teachers, Our Classrooms”.

What actually goes on in schools?

Ken decided to find out. From September 1993 until June 1994, he attended a high school in Ontario moving from class to class. Even though this was written more than a quarter of a century ago, many of the problems plaguing schools continue to exist. His observations are still relevant.

It’s easy for armchair quarterbacks to lay out the myriad of problems facing the education system but there don’t appear to be any easy solutions.

I do know one thing for certain. Schools have always leaned heavily on secretaries and janitors. I have always felt that these were key positions in schools. More than anybody, these people know EVERYTHING that’s going on.

I also tip my hat to TA’s (Teacher Assistants). They work extremely hard with some of our students who face significant challenges.

I know that my opinion won’t be roundly applauded but I think we could use a bit more of the ‘hick’ry stick’.

Do you remember when you were sure footed? When you were brimming with confidence? When you rarely screwed up? When your mind was like a steel trap?

Neither do I!

“And there’s a rose, in the fisted glove,

Where the eagle flies with the dove.”

Love The One You’re With – Stephen Stills (Of Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young fame)

I’m a lifelong list maker. I know. I know. You can just as easily make a list on your portable electronic device but it’s hard to break lifelong habits. Now, being Scottish, I don’t go out and buy fancy stationery for lists or even use post it notes. I never waste paper (I also eat leftovers for three days) so I routinely cut up used paper (drafts of my stories) into strips and these I use for my lists.

I usually have a couple of lists sitting on my dining table. When I run out of a food item, I immediately write it down for my next trip to the grocery store, lest I forget and have to make a second trip to the store. The other list is more generic. It is more like my “to do” list. Return library book. Learn the lyrics to (Enter name of song), visit so and so in the hospital.

Two important things about lists. Don’t leave them at home when you head out to do your errands and secondly, make sure you actually read the list…and check off each item as you go along.

I do a Costco run every couple of months. Yes. I have a Costco list and when I run out of something it goes on the list. A few weeks ago, I made my way to Dartmouth Crossing. It was an unusually quiet day at Costco. It may have had something to do with the temperature similar to that in Kuwait. In other words, the aisles weren’t crowded and gasp, I even did a bit of browsing, a very dangerous thing to do in this store.

You must be wondering why a person living alone buys things in bulk. When you crunch the numbers, it does make a lot of sense especially when you travel to the city regularly to visit family and friends.

I have a closet. Actually, I have several. One is for my unsold books; one is for cleaning supplies and dry goods like toilet paper, paper towels; one for towels and one for my extensive wardrobe. Now, I know that some of you routinely switch out your wardrobe when the seasons change but if I did that, my closet would be empty. I am a minimalist and that might be the understatement of the year when it comes to clothing.

Returning home from Costco, I started to put things away. In my dry goods closet, I also keep toothpaste and other toiletry items like razor blades, shaving cream and bars of soap (Dove unscented). And anti-perspirant. When I opened this closet, to my chagrin, I realized that I had just purchased a second box of Dove Men Care deodorant. I now have enough deodorant to start trafficking it. In fact, I reckon that I have enough anti-perspirant to keep me smelling just fine until the Second Coming.

Because I made the fatal mistake of browsing at Costco, I inadvertently bought something I didn’t need and forgot something that I needed which was on my list.

So much for lists.

Steel trap? Highly unlikely at 72.

No fools. No fun.

Have a great weekend.

P.S. Saw this and love it. “If you ask me, music is the language of memory”. Jodi Picoult


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