When I was a young lad in school, as you will know if you have parents or grandparents, I had to walk twenty miles to school each day and twenty miles back again, up hill both ways, and it always snowed while I was walking. And often times, that was the good part of my day.
Okay, that’s an exaggeration. But I am not lying when I tell you that I went to one room schools, as in “Little House On The Prairie.” Grade one and grade two were spent in a school with grades one through eight all being taught by one teacher. How did I learn anything you ask? I learned everything. If the teacher was talking I was listening, struggling to comprehend lessons meant for people who ranged from a year older than I was to people twice my age. But I couldn’t do my own work.
By grade three we were being bussed to different schools, still one roomers, where we were collected by age so that we didn’t have as many distractions. That year I attended a school that had only grades one two and three. The next year I went to a different school that had grades four and five and the next year I went to a different one again that had grades five and six.
Although I had a fairly bad teacher earlier in my life, grade five delivered me into the hands of the queen of harsh teachers. Her methods of motivation were making an example of you and ridiculing you. And by you, I mean me.
As a boy with ADHD in a world that knew nothing of ADHD, I was a natural target for her maliciousness. I was not her only target, not even her favorite one, but I was a frequent one, and I was one who was prepared to believe in my stupidity.
The year went very poorly for me, and finally … I broke. I don’t remember what happened that day, I don’t remember the fracturing of my mind. If you had asked me I would have said I must have blacked out, but I was apparently loud and vocal about my fear of having to remain in that school.
I never went back. After a month of rest I was returned to the school of grade fours and fives where I managed very well with the understanding woman who mastered that institution.
In my school career, I had good teachers. My grandmother was a retired teacher, and she became my first school teacher when she taught me to read and write before I officially started school.
My first grade teacher was a kindly gentleman who was intolerant of misbehaviour, but fair in deciding what that actually was. My third grade teacher was also a very good teacher, and my fourth grade teacher, the one who took over part way through my fifth year and salvaged my shattered self esteem was by far my favorite.
Yes, I got my share of “Does not apply himself to the full of his potential …” comments on report cards, all through school, at every grade, but that was all they knew back then.
I’ve spent a lot of my life trying to be thankful, to look for the good in everyone and everything. But I’ve been bitter about my experience in grade five for so long that it’s hard to let it go.
But today, that’s exactly what I’m going to do. I’m going to thank that teacher for giving me something none of the good ones were able to offer. I’m going to thank that teacher for teaching me what life without compassion would be like.
I’ve grown strong because of good teachers I’ve had and continue to have in my life. Ones with compassion, ones who seek out the student who needs their own path to learning.
The good ones are out there, I’m nodding at you, Rahmi and Tron, as my proof. And I know there are more of you, I wish to say thanks to you also. You are needed, you are admired and appreciated and needed.
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Last reviewed: 7 May 2013