It was the fall of ‘72. The golden glow of the autumn sun caressed our childish locks of hair and the breezes carried with them a hint of winter’s coolness. Excitement and perhaps a little fear made our hearts beat rapidly as we waited. Then it appeared. The sign of dust in the distance and soon the rumble and roar as THE bright yellow school bus rattled to a stop. It was finally here. The day we’d all been waiting for. Kindergarten! The chance to join our older brothers and sisters in that world beyond. The hallowed halls of learning beckoned us with open arms. The adventure of it all took our breath away.
I felt so grown up when I climbed those enormous steps leading up into that ferocious yellow monster that would transport me to the place beside my friend and neighbour and schoolmate-to-be! She smiled back at me and we whispered excitedly about the day ahead! Finally we didn’t need to play school anymore- we had arrived. We were almost adults (or so we thought). It didn’t matter that we couldn’t see over the top of the forest green school bus seats.
We scampered out of the bus as quickly as possible as we arrived at the Rosenort Elementary School! Then we hurried through those huge, heavy steel doors and wandered with awe throughout he corridor and made our way down the stairs. And there it was. The Room in which we’d learn the ABC’s and how to write our names and so much more.
And what a room! So much to see and do. Scads of books and games and toys and nails to hold our painting smocks, and many children all around. Almost Heaven for a five year old with eager, hungry eyes. To our delight - the sandbox with the shovels, pails and big dump trucks. The painting easels covered with massive, unsoiled sheets of white looming overhead waiting for our greedy fingertips. And oh the milk and cookies. We learned the rules of washing up before and after everything and potty breaks and holding hands with partners. Then recess time and skipping ropes and teeter-totters and frozen tag and the huge chain swings that took us up on journeys through the cool fall skies. It was life at its very best. School.
Then home again. School days came and went. Sunrise, school, and sunsets. The joys of learning when everything was fresh and new and frightening in a delightful way. Especially all the older kids (and they all were) who teased and smiled and seemed so wise and tall and scary.
Then, all too soon, the first year of our rapturous learning came to an end - how wonderful to have the summer sun caress our tender skin again. And we played. And laughed. And then Grade 1. And Miss Brandt and the mysteries and ecstasies of ownership. Our very own wooden desks decorated with our names and even steel grey ledges that held our golden pencils, pink erasers and a medley of other tools to enable us to master all the skills of adulthood in a children’s wonderland. We learned to print on and between the lines and to sound out words as best we could. And the rewards seemed worth it all. We worked for stickers - pleasing to the eye, colorful, and shiny and for that purely sugar powdered candy that we licked off of moistened sticks. (My dentist bill reminds me). We blushed and built our egos from the teacher’s smile and her gracious words “Well-done.”
Our Grade 2 teacher was married to another teacher. Our class spent a day at her home and I was invited to spend a weekend with them. This couple genuinely loved children. It was strange having classrooms without proper walls and you could hear all the teachers babbling at the same time. It was very distracting. You felt like hiding in the bathroom just to get some peace and quiet. I received my one and only school spanking from the principal this year for using bad language. And then got a second one at home just to reinforce the point. I deserved them.
The Grade 3 teacher took us to her Mom’s house in Morden and we climbed trees in the local park there. She took a number of the girls camping just when school was finished. Would any teacher in their right mind do that now? That year many classes was split and linked with another class in some multi-grade system the educational system was experimenting with. It was the last year the Holdeman people were part of our school. We lost a lot of friends that year and had childish arguments about the fact they were leaving. I think it was this year that a Jewish teacher was released from teaching duties because she was caught smoking pot out the back door of our school. Somehow that story still amuses me, although I’m sure the tremors in the community were tremendous.
In Grade 4 the teacher was brand new and we were privileged to break her in. Hmmm…I’m amazed she didn’t throw in the towel. She’s still teaching in Rosenort. Older and wiser and better than ever – teaching my kids now. The highlight that year was the amount of plays we could perform from library books. My love for the dramatic probably stems from that introduction to acting. S.R.A (whatever that stands for) was in my opinion) an excellent reading program which we were introduced to that year.
The highlights of the early years are summed up this way. “We gazed with wonder at the galaxies and stars above the Planetarium and imagined ourselves sailors at sea on the deck of the Nonsuch in the Museum of Man and Nature. We were wide-eyed at the sight of lions roaring and polar bears splashing and we squealed in delight as the monkey chased each other from swing to swing at The Zoo! Just as easily we became early settlers and soldiers as we roamed the historic grounds of Lower Fort Garry. Imagination made our world limitless. We could close our eyes and dream and be anyone - anywhere. Especially on our field trips.”
In the Middle years (Grade 5) we had our first male teacher. He introduced us to history and geography and our culture. He showed us how our heritage as Mennonites shaped us. I’ll never forget the many projects and interviews. Later he told my Mom, I was his favorite student. Personally I think he was the kind of teacher who truly meant it and probably said it to each parent.
In Grade 6 our teacher was a little eccentric. He could jump over his desk, smiled continually, which was unnerving, and slammed the door repeatedly when frustrated with us. It was a wild year with the ’79 flood shortening our school year dramatically. We were rewarded with numerous play periods of floor hockey when we finished our work on time! The only ones that dawdled were those who hated the game.
In Grade 7 we had two teachers because no one wanted us full time, or so we thought. The school was absolutely over run with crickets and mice that year. The woman lost her temper a lot and the male teacher was amused by us! I guess kids that age are hormonally challenged and the teachers suffer. We fought all the time as a class so that year was just a nightmare for everyone. We all became claustrophobic because a big science lab was built to fill all that open space we were used to from having the open classroom concept. I had to go see the principal in his office in a case of self-defense. It was my first time at trial and I won the case against the other party!
In Grade 8 we again had a brand new teacher. We thought someone in her family died that year because she cried every day. We were a bit confused about it all. The teacher hadn’t been taught classroom control in university (as no one is) and she left and we heard she’d changed careers. It was a bizarre year. It is amazing how little you remember about the early teen years. I think one is always very self-centred during that time.
In grade 9 we had several excellent teachers. We had a great year, since we were the seniors in the elementary school! I think our learning took a new twist as we realized we were closer to being adults than to being children anymore. Our home-room teacher made us follow hockey all year for our Math course. I can still do statistics fairly well today! Another teacher told us he believed God used evolution to create the world. I went home to my parents to tattle and my Dad, a minister, explained the several views out there. He reassured me with a discussion on why and what and Whom he believed. I learned much from what he did not do. Schoolteachers and others in authority were always to be respected, allowed to have their own views, but not always to be believed. Both the teachers and my parents, thankfully, taught me to think for myself.
The previous years could be summed up as the miracle of survival. Due to Mr. Koop’s policy of “outdoor play-every day” -the vision of all of us, the girls, huddled close to the goal post of a - 30 soccer game sends shivers up my spine. We endured the painful slaps of frozen balls against our shins and chins and other tender parts with fortitude (and lots of complaining). But Old Man Winter brought with him advantages too. We would eagerly turn the radio dial to CFAM and listen for Jim McSweeney’s low voice saying those delightful words, “Morris MacDonald School Division - classes cancelled due to poor visibility and blizzard conditions.” Screams of joy would burst forth like a song!
And then there were the glorious springtime’s. The buses would journey round about the swollen rivers and flooded bridges. What was an extra twenty minutes on the bus! And then the spring to beat all springs - the Flood of ‘79. Who can forget the shortened year? What an exciting time that was. A fashion statement all alone - the black rubber boots and short flood pants! Yes, life was never dull.
Grades 10-12 were fabulous and terrible. The little school, with the smaller gym. The bathroom wallpapered with posters of various male athletes and lockers decorated with frog guts from the dissections happening in one of the science courses. A different teacher for every course, combined classes with other grades, taking almost all my grade 12 courses in grade 11 and my grade 11 courses in my final year. Life in a small school. High school was bizarre with the oddest combination of teachers. You couldn’t help but be aware of cultural differences. One was proudly German, another of Icelandic stock, another could speak Ukrainian and one was just regarded as a hippie. Their cars matched their unique personalities. Students love eccentricities in teachers and there were plenty of those. The English teacher blushed as he protected our innocence, standing in front of the t.v. during a love scene between Romeo and Juliet. The German teacher’s golden fillings gleamed as he delightedly told of his escape from East Germany. (We were never sure – was it true?) The history/geography teacher always brought a cup of coffee and a newspaper to class to pass the time while we were busy writing essays or answering questions. And of course the two-fingered typist still saunters at the same speed going to or from class as a teacher to this very day.
±±±The teachers saw us through it all; the missing front teeth, the bad hair cuts and beauty ‘do’s, the horn-rimmed glasses, the steel-tipped braces and the crazy roller coaster ride called Puberty. The checkered flares of the 70’s, sport rugby’s of the early 80’s, parachute pants and glowing neon sweatshirts that lit up high school. Hand-held blow dryers, curling irons and contact lenses, gel and mousse, revolutionized the way we looked as we entered our teens.
These are just a few random thoughts connected with teachers. Children may never thank their teachers but they do not ever forget them. The simple fact is that I learned everything I put my mind to in school. I can read and write, speak and solve problems (some), and have developed an awareness of politics, history, biology etc. I know that other than blizzards - I never wanted to miss school. It was a fairly safe, positive learning environment and I pray that it will continue to be just that for my children. I trust you with my dearest ones just as my parents did before me.
Thank you for teaching.
P.S. The English teacher is not supposed to mark this paper up in red, even if the grammar is atrocious, since everything I learned about what to do or not to do with the English language I was taught at this school! I often think the school year is always too short for English teachers to teach all of those dreadful rules. I remember one of my teachers saying we’d skip the chapter on grammar because of time limitations and do poetry instead. I can do neither very well so…
Last Updated Dec 25, 2003 by Lorilee Scharfenberg
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