Wednesday’s Words of Wisdom (and Whimsy)

Posted on April 20, 2022 under Wednesday’s Words of Wisdom with no comments yet




I’m a big believer in lifelong learning. Let’s face it. Even if you lived to be a thousand, you would only begin to scrape the surface of all the knowledge available to us. While I continue to read for enjoyment, (mostly fiction), about every fifth book or so, I try and make a conscious effort to read something historical. I probably won’t ever make it to Jeopardy like our hometown hero, Mattea Roach, but I reckon a bit of learnin’ never hurt anyone.

What better place to learn new things than at school? After slumming it for the better part of three months, I finally got off my butt and did my first day of substitute teaching last week. The call came early in the morning, and I was summoned to a local school to teach (wait for it) gym. Ok. You can get up off the floor after rolling around in hysterics. As ridiculous as this may sound, it is not the craziest sub job I ever agreed to take on.

Actually, my very first day of paid substituting was in 1976. I was not the one who took the call nor was I was I the one who agreed to paid employment. You see, the night before this fateful event, I was celebrating with my fellow B. Ed colleagues. We had graduated that day and went to the graduation dance and pub later that evening. Well, you know how these things go. My last cogent memory was sitting at the top of the grandstands of Oland football stadium , in full academic regalia, at 6:00 a.m., sipping beer. I crawled home through the field leading to my home on Hillcrest Street.

A bad dream quickly became a nightmare. “Wake up, Len. You have to teach.” It was my mom, excited that her newly minted teaching son was about to finally earn a paycheck. Bleary eyed, I looked at her in utter disbelief. It was 7:30 a.m. In an alcoholic haze, I asked her about the call. The school had called and asked if I was available, and my mother had given the principal an unequivocal yes. I told my mother in no uncertain terms that I wouldn’t be going to teach because I was still intoxicated. Has your mom ever given you one of those withering stares that would make a Viking quiver in his boots? I would be teaching.

I staggered across the same field that I had traversed a scant 2 hours earlier, to St.Andrew Junior High School. I had to cross the Trans Canada to get to the school. Such was my agony that I momentarily thought about playing in the traffic. I got to the school and reported to the office. The principal might have thought that I was shy or nervous, but in truth, I kept my head down to prevent him from getting alcohol poisoning just by smelling my breath.

“You will be teaching sheet metal.”

In my stupor, I thought about the doctors’ creed: “Do no harm”.

I let that sink in for a few seconds and realized that this might be the start of the shortest teaching career in the history of education. Yes. I was worried about the safety of my students, but I was far more concerned about my own personal wellbeing. Perfectly sober, I am not safe with machinery. It was one of the longest days of my life.

It would take me far too long to tell you the back story about how I came to be substitute teaching in Fairview, Alberta, after I had finished three years of teaching in the town. I was passing through the town on my way to Victoria in the spring of 1979. I thought it might be good to earn a few extra bucks. I got a call to do a full week of substituting for the grade 1 teacher. Luckily, I got the call on a Friday and was able to go to the school on the weekend to do some prep. Now, I had never taught children that young before. I knew from pedagogy that young children were sponges. With this in mind, I prepared enough work to keep these tykes busy until they entered junior high. By 11:00 a.m. the following Monday morning, the children had devoured every stitch of paperwork I had prepared. I realized that I had underestimated their thirst for learning.

Back to the present.

I messaged the secretary of the school before leaving home. In a stroke of unadulterated luck, I found out that I wouldn’t be doing much teaching at all as student teachers from the B.Ed. program at the university were in school this week practice teaching. I walked to the school toting my backpack. “Heigh ho, heigh ho, it’s off to work we go”. (I changed the lyrics so please don’t get on my case!). I went to the office (fully masked of course) and received the day’s lesson plans and a lanyard to convince disbelieving students that father time had somehow miraculously appeared in their school.

The second piece of luck was the student teacher. He was a high energy, affable young man. I looked at the schedule for the day and saw that the students would be learning about archery safety. After five straight one- hour classes, I learned about finding the dominant eye, techniques of holding the bow and releasing the arrow, and dry firing. The cardinal sin of archery is pretending to fire an arrow without an actual arrow. Pulling back on the string and releasing it could cause severe damage. My lifelong learning got a serious boost that day.

Such was my confidence that I thought that I could go out in the forest with a “band of merry men” and rob from the rich to give to the poor. However, lacking serious charm, it would be doubtful if I could have wooed the beautiful Maid Marian. My prospects of thwarting the evil Sheriff of Nottingham might have been marginally higher!

Be afraid, Robin Hood. Be very afraid.

A few final thoughts.

I was messaging with a friend last week. She was inquiring about my health, specifically my lingering Covid symptoms. She knows that in normal times, I’m a pretty energetic guy. Here’s what she said:” I’m really rutting for your health to return and the spunk in your step”. We all know the perils of autocorrect. A broad smile crossed my face followed by a loud guffaw. I think my breeding days are in the rear-view mirror. I don’t think I’ll be part of the rut this year!

It was brough to my attention (Thanks, MK) that I erroneously attributed the lyrics of “The End of The World” in last Wednesday’s post to Great Big Sea when in fact it was Michael Stipe and his bandmates at REM.

Absurdity #4. (I’m almost certain that this will put me in hot water with pet lovers)

Last week’s post was about absurdity. I feel compelled to add this one to an ever-growing list. A CBC story caught my eye last week. It was a dispute about a cat and who legally owned the feline. The matter was so serious that it ended up in small claims court. “The issue is not who is the better ‘cat parent’, but who in law is its owner”, wrote the adjudicator. While the crux of the matter was serious, it was a comment made by the adjudicator that still has me chuckling.

“Dogs have owners. Cats have staff.”

Have a great weekend.

P.S. I want to wish my son, Peter a happy birthday today. Pete is a great guy, a talented musician and producer and my travelling partner. “Long may you run”, Pete!


robin hood stood smiling and holding a bow

Enjoy this? Visit the rest of my website to enjoy more of my work or buy my books!
Highland Hearing Clinic

Subscribe to Blog via Email

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.