World Teachers’ Day – Thurs Oct 5

Maybe it’s because I’ve been in the education profession for almost 30 years, but I find myself thinking about some of my previous teachers quite regularly.  There are many teachers in my past who transformed my thinking and being — provided me with a window of opportunity for personal growth.  Here are some of the great teachers I’ve been thinking about recently:

  • Ms. Kincaid (Gr 2, Blythwood Elem, Toronto) – She was always so kind and gentle making everyone feel wanted and loved — easily one of the sweetest teachers I ever knew in school.
  • Ms. Bell (Gr 10 English, Central Memorial HS, Calgary) – My high school English teacher recognized when I was new to the school that I needed to make connections.  She was directing the school’s production of “Fiddler on the Roof” and told me that I was now part of the cast.  I joined and met my lifelong friend, Gord.
  • Mr. Polukoshko (Gr12 Biology, Central Memorial HS, Calgary) – Great subject teacher, but an even better person.  I came back to see him in my first year of university to get some help with some genetics.  He spent a lot of time with me making sure that I completely understood cell division.
  • Mr. Fred Hunt (Education, Univ of Calgary) – Great mentor to brand new teachers. Calm, patient, funny, but most of all he wondered about us, asking us questions about ourselves, our strengths and our challenges.
  • Dr. Michael Cavey (Zoology, Univ of Calgary) – Probably the best teacher of content I ever had, but he also deeply cared about his students.  I took every undergraduate course that he taught.  Awesome prof!

As I reflect on this list of some of my wonderful teachers and what they gave to me — I see gifts of personal safety, inclusion, support and mentor-ship.   They believed in me.

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Residential Schools – We Can Remember by Wearing Orange

I found myself feeling somewhat nervous, perhaps a tad intimidated, when I set out to write this particular post.  I felt myself being drawn into writing something about residential schools and the upcoming Orange Shirt Day (Sept 30th every year), but I also felt incredibly inadequate:

  • My understanding about our national history on residential schools is bordering on the ignorant.  I do not ever recall being taught in school about Canada’s shameful past experience with residential schools, and while I’ve listened to elders talk about their experiences, I still feel somewhat uninformed;
  • I am not an indigenous person — none of my relatives are indigenous — and as such I do not pretend to begin to understand the pain and suffering felt by the thousands of persons who were sent to residential schools in Canada;
  • I worry that my words and sentiments, because of my limited understanding, may inadvertently add to the hurt or pain already felt among many in our indigenous communities.

What I am NOT concerned about is whether this blog post might result in people talking about our nation’s past practices with our indigenous people.   In fact, I hope that it might encourage some conversation about our experience with residential schools.  Our country’s history with residential schools is shameful.

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