Teaching is definitely what they call....a "calling".
I came to teaching naturally. From early childhood, I was bossy, opinionated and loved to draw on the little blackboard my parents bought for me to encourage me to like school. It worked. I put all my dolls and stuffed toys in a little circle and began pontificating as soon as I could speak. Although I didn’t actually get to attend school until I was five (those were the days before pre-school, when mothers stayed home and took care of their own children because no one else would), I was more than ready, having learned to read and even play a little chess, by then.
I found school to be a mystery, in many ways. There seemed to be a lot of lining up and rote drilling in between the more exciting moments when the paint trays were trotted out or the pitch pipe was tooted at us. When I asked my Grade 1 teacher how to spell ‘OUT’, she chanted “ohyouteespellsoutgoesshe”. I had absolutely no idea what she was talking about. I felt like an idiot and never asked her another question. (I later taught a very bright girl who never raised her hand in class, although it was obvious she knew everything, even before I asked. She confided to me, in her journal…not out loud, of course, that a teacher had mocked a response she had given in Grade 3 and she had never talked in class again. I immediately empathized and we worked it out so she could offer her ideas without fear, in that class, at least. I felt I had corrected some imbalance in nature with that one.
In case you are concerned that I too, hovered in some quiet corner, hoarding my wisdom to myself, nurturing a grudge, don’t worry. I soon recovered to the extent that my Gr. 3 teacher felt the need to add the comment on my report card to my parents that “I talked too much”. Somehow they were not shocked at this revelation. I, however, was mortified that someone would brand me a chatterbox and not appreciate my enthusiasm and friendliness.
By Grade 1, I loved to read and it was soon discovered that I was doing so “at the level of a pupil three years and four months in school”. Not three months or five months. Exactly four. There was a flurry of excitement at my house at this news, but then the fuss died right down when my father complained about me not bringing up the empty garbage pails from the curb, and that was that.
Over the years, I was a challenge to many of my own ‘educators’. I judged them harshly when they insisted we line up in the gym with our toes on the red line, when they insisted on calling on the pupil who obviously didn’t have a clue instead of acknowledging my wildly waving arm, and especially when, in Grade 4, my favorite teacher, Mr. Anthony, rewarded Angela Smith with the opportunity to be the first in the class to abandon her pencil and use pen and ink from an exotic inkwell embedded in the top right-hand corner of her desk. This was just because her cursive writing was prettier than mine! Cursive writing….another skill down the inkwell of progress.
I was a natural in primary school. I could fold and cut paper snowflakes like the wind and loop together endless paperchains for the annual Christmas tree faster than anyone else. I pressed my little hand into a saucer of sticky grey asbestos to make a charming plaque for my parents to treasure always. Although this primitive work of sculpture was nowhere to be found in their bungalow after their demise, I still have the mysterious cough I picked up around that time. I loved the smell of the toxic chemicals on the ‘dittoed’ handouts, relished the fine line of a freshly sharpened pencil, and saw unlimited potential each time I started a new notebook. Would I be able to keep it neat all the way through and not just on the first few pages?
I always hoped so.