xmlns:og='http://ogp.me/ns#' The Font of Noelage: The joy of teaching.

Friday, 28 February 2014

The joy of teaching.

My two former pupils from 1962/3 in Toronto in 2014.

Teachers: They may not remember what you said, they may not remember what you did, but they will remember how you made them feel.

I get quite a lot of junk mail. Generally I delete it fairly quickly. In late January this year  I enjoyed a wonderful family holiday on Rottnest Island. I used to check my iPad for e-mails after breakfast, sitting on our front veranda, sipping coffee and enjoying the shimmering wonders of the ever sparkling blue waters of Thomson’s Bay.

As usual I was deleting the junk mail. I came across one from a fellow that I had never heard of and was about to hit Delete when I noticed that the Internet Service Provider was Sympatico. Now Sympatico is a Canadian service provider and I have family and friends in Canada. I wondered if this could be somebody whom I knew in Canada who was using a friend’s computer. I had my finger poised on Delete but decided that I would open the message instead.

I am so glad I did, because what I read blew me right away. It blew me back fifty years from my Rottnest Island paradise and landed me in Grade Six at Saint Theresa’s Shrine School in Toronto, Canada, Circa 1962/3.

It was a message from a girl named Norah whom I taught over fifty years ago. The name that I did not recognize on the e-mail was  that of her husband, Joe. It seems that Norah had recently contacted by e-mail another girl, Anne Marie, from the same class. They had not been in touch for fifty years and they reminisced about their days together at primary school at St Theresa’s Shrine School. This was a Catholic school in the Scarborough District of Toronto. It catered for children from Year 6 to Year 10. 

Naturally, these two girls soon started talking about their school days and their wonderful, handsome, witty, and very, very humble teacher with the unusual Australian accent! They wondered if I was still around, so Norah did a Google search and eventually stumbled on to my Blog site. This enabled her to make contact.

And what a contact she made. She said some really nice things about my teaching and how much she enjoyed being in my class. Only a teacher will have any understanding of how thrilled and delighted I was to read those kindly sentiments. The next day her classmate, Anne Marie, also contacted me and  reflected in very complimentary terms on the happy times that she had had in my classroom so long ago. One thing that Anne Marie said really struck home. She said that I “had given her a voice” which had enabled her to develop her self confidence. This was a decided asset in the business world she successfully inhabited in later life.

Anne Marie certainly developed in confidence alright. I remember one day I was standing at the front of the room when I noticed a fair bit of giggling and sniggering coming from the back left hand corner.

“What is going on down there?” I queried in my best teachers’ voice.

The giggling stopped.Anne Marie rose to her feet with a quiet dignity, smiled and said, “Mr Bourke, Michael Jolicouer has just farted.”  Well that certainly caused some merriment.

I was amazed at how much they remembered about the type of lessons I taught, the organized debates that we had and the way the class was arranged into groups that developed cooperation as well as competition. 

Having read the introduction to my blog, both girls (well they are now happily married ladies in their early sixties with grown up families, but in my mind’s eye they are still lovely, fresh faced, smiling and beautiful young girls) remarked that they were not surprised to read that my original ambition after leaving school was to be a journalist. It seems I was often asking them to write stories as if they were going to be published in a newspaper.

Norah even remembered me one day telling the class, “Hickory, Dickory, Dock, two mice ran up the clock. The clock struck one and the other received minor injuries. The clock was arrested for assault and battery and will appear in the Magistrate’s Court at 10-00am next Tuesday. You are the reporter who attends the trial. you have to write the story for the afternoon paper.”

Yes, well, I remember that one because I used it quite a bit over the years. Norah remarked what a shame it was that we didn’t have those stories to read again now. Ah, yes, what fun it would be to read the thoughts that those creative minds put to paper fifty years ago.

Norah, Anne Marie and I have conducted quite an e-mail correspondence since late January, giving each other pieces of information about our family histories and things that happened to us in life. Just like life, some are happy and some sad.

Henry Adams said, “A teacher effects all eternity; he can never tell where his influence stops.” I am sure Norah and Anne Marie will be quick to tell me that Henry Adams should have been gender inclusive and that a teacher can be a He or a She, but Henry wrote along while ago so I think we can let him off with a caution.

On the other hand what Henry Adams said is perfectly true. Teachers have children in their class for a year and try to keep them happy and interested while they learn the knowledge, skills, habits and values that will enable them to have satisfying and productive lives in society. Sadly, teachers rarely get to see if the children that they teach go on to achieve the things they dreamed of and if, a lifetime later, they have fashioned for themselves the happy and fulfilling lives that all of us desire.

Hector Berlioz though that, “Time is the greatest teacher of all. Unfortunately, it kills off all of it students.” This is also true, but time can also keep intact the memories that we cherish of our bygone days. I am so glad that after a time lapse of fifty years, Nora and Anne Marie took the trouble to track down their old teacher and tell him that he did have some positive influence on their lives. I am so glad to learn that they are both happily married ladies with grown up children that they love and are proud of. I am so glad that we are able to communicate so easily with each other after so many years.

The introduction to this story says of teachers that their pupils “May not remember what you said. They may not remember what you did, but, they will remember how you made them feel.”

It is exceedingly gratifying to me that these two young girls felt so good about it all, that fifty years later they took the trouble to tell me so.

Thank you Norah and Anne Marie.

This is not the class that Norah and Anne Marie were in. It is the Year 6 class of 1963/64. I think they are all looking so happy because I told them it was my last day at the school; Friday, June 26, 1964.
Anne Marie at the back, left. Head down and working hard as usual. Sadly, Norah not in frame.

Me taking Liberties with a lady. Easter 1964.

NOT the Winter Olympics of 1962.

Anne Marie and Norah made a nostalgic return to St Theresa's Shrine School and took me along with them,well, LEON, my biography, at least.

1 comment:

  1. The comments below were posted by Anne Marie shortly after this blog was written. A few months later they were inadvertently deleted by me when I was reviewing the comments section of my blog. I stumbled across an old e mail of Anne Marie's today and was happy to find the comments posted there. I was so happy to make contact with Anne Marie and her school friend, Norah, and so glad that these comments, of which I am so pleased and proud,are able to be returned to the Post that prompted them.

    "If Norah and I live on as "fresh-faced young girls" in Noel's mind then it's only fair to admit that he lives on as our "dreamy" teacher - the highest praise that pre-teen young girls of that era could bestow on an adult! There was laughter, discipline and challenge in "Mr. Bourke's" class - not an easy balance to maintain but perhaps one of the most important life lessons a child can learn. Thank you Noel."


I would love to hear your opinion! If for some technical reason it won't let you leave a comment, please email me at bourke@iinet.net.au