Wednesday, July 27, 2016

How My Best Teacher Gave Me My First Job

My school years involved many moves and I attended more schools than grade levels. My husband can name every grade school and home room teacher he had but I remember only a couple of names. No single teacher left a great impression on me personally. I believe a great teacher teaches more than a lesson plan. They instil a passion for learning and make themselves vulnerable by sharing learning experiences from their own life.

The head of the physiotherapy school I attended was a real "battle-axe". She acted like a drill sergeant and never cracked a smile. Half of our class dropped out before the last year, usually leaving in tears. She made a cake for us on the last day, just before we graduated. I distinctly remember her talking about using unsalted butter in the icing. It was such an uncharacteristic comment. We were in shock as she smiled and started to tell us about her life in England during the war. She spoke of a love lost and how she was returning to Britain to care for her ageing mother. My education was excellent but I wonder how much more I would have learned, without fear, if she had shown us her personal side earlier.

My best teacher and the person who recognized I was ready for my first "job" was my mother.

Mom went to university and teachers' college before she was married. She taught kindergarten in a poor Toronto neighbourhood for a couple of years after she was married and then she and Dad went to South Africa. Mom was a gifted teacher and even though she did not work at a paying job again, she taught at church and at home. She taught me to read before I went to school and encouraged academic excellence in all of us. She was confident and instilled confidence in each of us.


I was 5-1/2 years old when my second brother, Philip was born. My first brother, Nathan is 18 months younger than me and I don't remember life without him. He was my main playmate and confidante. I remember the excitement of having a baby in the house and I loved to look after him. I changed his diapers which were bulky flannel things with big pins. I carried him around on my hip before he could walk. (After he learned to walk, he refused to be carried and that is an analogy of his entire life)

Mom brought Mark home when I was 8 and Stephen arrived when I was 9. I was happy to look after them. When Stephen was 3 months old, our family was in a serious car accident and Mom was in and out of hospital for a few years. Dad was also badly injured. That is when I truly became the keeper of my little brothers and learned how to manage household chores.

In spite of Mom's injuries and surgeries, she cooked, canned, prepared food for the freezer, sewed our clothes, made curtains, and was active in the church, even when she was on crutches. When I was 11, she bought material and a pattern and I made my first dress. I learned to cook and do laundry around the same time. I was always encouraged, not criticized for my efforts which I am sure were substandard at times. My maternal grandmother rounded out my education, taking me on trips, introducing me to many good books and going places with her interesting friends. She was a retired doctor but volunteered at the local nursing home on Saturdays. I worked in the tuck shop with her, serving ice cream and learning to count change. 

This morning I watched the owner of this fishing camp and his teenaged daughter doing repair work in one of the cabins. She was using a drill and worked under his casual direction fixing some latches. After that job was done, she drove him in a golf cart, as a work partner, to their next project. As well as spending time with her dad, she is gaining confidence and learning valuable skills. 

Some of my friends and coworkers spend a lot of time driving their children to camps and various activities. They don't have time to cook proper meals and home is just a place to sleep. Children are eager to help and no task is too mundane, especially if it involves the time and attention of a parent or grandparent. We took music and sports instruction too, but our most important life lessons were learned in unstructured time with the family. 

Ginger wrote a poignant post about giving and the need throughout life to contribute to your group. We all need community, purpose, and a job whether we are 5-1/2 or 85 years. The lessons my mother taught me can be applied through a lifetime.

6 comments:

  1. It's OK to get behind. Great to read about two models of being a teacher. I am like you--I can't remember the names of any of my teachers in my early education. (Except of course my mother!)
    That's the lot of missionary children ... or it once was--to be constantly on the move.
    Wonderful memories for you about your mother, your siblings, and your maternal grandmother. You learned from all.

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  2. I am learning more about you after reading you for years.

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    1. Some of these prompts are quite personal.

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  3. Oh Ruth, what a beautiful post about your most beloved "teacher." You are right. Time spent doing life learning tasks is so much more important than carting your kids off to "lessons" here and there. How lovely that you have so many deep, wonderful memories.

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  4. What a tribute to your family! I remember my mom teaching me some things, but not as much as you got. I think it's a wonder that she taught me as much as she did, since she worked so much. Interestingly enough, although she had a degree in music she would not teach us piano. She said that the dynamic would not have been good as she wasn't much of a teacher, so she sent us off to other women who were excellent piano teachers. I admire her for knowing her strengths and the chemistry of her instruction with us. She may not have taught us piano, but she taught us a LOT about values, thoughts, service and commitment. I'd much rather have gotten those things from her, than anyone!

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    1. Moms are a big influence in our lives whether they had a career or worked at home. The teacher you wrote about must have been like and extended family member to you.

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