I never wanted to be a teacher.

I never spent my childhood
playing school
with stuffed animals
or dolls.

I loved to draw
and make things.
I loved to read.

In grade 3,
I can vividly remember
wanting to write my own book.
We had a guest
visit our classroom
to show us how to bind stories
that we had written.

She showed us
how to cut a cardboard cover and back,
and how to fold wallpaper
of our choosing
carefully around the corners.

I remember being taught
how to write a dedication page
and how to leave a blank page
at the front.

I was 7 years old.

I never wanted to be a teacher.
I wanted to be a writer.

But I’m not good at drawing.
I won’t be able to illustrate it.
I’ll do something different.

I could be a pediatrician;
it’s related to kids.
I could be a journalist…

Or maybe my love of kids
and writing
meant that someday
I could have
a family of my own
and write a book.


I could be a teacher.

I grew up in a world
that felt small,
in a rural town
in Northwestern Ontario
surrounded by
rock, lakes and trees.
Population 1,200.

Our parents did so much
to expose us to more.
Trips to Winnipeg
Weekends in Thunder Bay,
and a family road trip out
to B.C. in grade 8.
Trips throughout
the U.S.

They gave so much.
Thank you,
Mom and Dad.

And in terms of career,
I think I only knew
what was around me.

Loggers
Mill workers
Secretaries
Office staff

Cooks
Waitresses
Cashiers
Librarians
Babysitters
Mechanics

Nurses
Doctors
Family owned businesses
Police officers
and
Teachers.

I could be a teacher.

I liked kids and
I could go away
to school.

My mom worked at the CIBC in town.
My dad was a mechanic.
My Auntie Carolyn worked at a store in Dryden
and cleaned people’s houses.
My Uncle Bill worked with a paper/printing company.
My other Uncle Bill worked at a car dealership.
My grandparents were trappers.
My Grandma Beatrice was a stay-at-home mom.
My Uncle Brian worked at CN (Canadian National Railway).
My older cousin, Laurie, was a teacher.

I’ll do that.

Who offers the con-ed program?
Queens.
York.
Brock.

York.  Toronto is really big.
Maybe too much of a change.
A town of 1,200 to a city of over 2 million?

Queens.
I wanted to go to Queens.
I cried the day I got my letter
and wasn’t accepted.

Brock.
Sure.  It looks nice from the pamphlet
I got from my guidance counsellor.

It was a 20 hour drive away from home.
It felt like I was going to a different country.

Brock.

I was the only one
from my high school
who went to Brock
(minus one girl, who I think dropped out).

Our family drove for two days
in Dad’s extended cab truck
through Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan,
and into southern Ontario.
When I arrived to residence,
we started to unpack my things.

Mom was taking her time.
She wasn’t ready to leave yet.
I remember her making my bed
and Dad saying,
Peg, she can make her own bed.  
And my mom’s shaky voice,
I just want it to look nice.
She said that she cried for most
of the 20 hour drive home.

I was 18 years old.  

It must have been so hard
for them to leave me there.

And yet I thrived.

I had new friends.
I was on my own.
I was learning new things
and finally felt like
I belonged.

My friends on the floor
went out to the bar,
and I stayed home and studied.
I needed to have a good average
to compete for a spot in the
Con-ed program.
Plus, I was only 18.
I wasn’t old enough
to get into the bars,
which was probably a good thing.

I was accepted into the program.

I sat in on lectures
about child development
and stages of growth.
Psychology
Sociology
Education Law
Children and Youth with Exceptionalities
Focus on Early Childhood Education…

I didn’t love my classes,
but I loved being at school.

I did a placement
at the Niagara Peninsula Children’s Centre.
I loved the kids.

There was a little guy
who was non-verbal.
I think he had down syndrome.
He had the greatest smile
and a sparkle in his eye.
He made a little grunt
to show his approval
and he was so affectionate.

If I was away one day,
he was not happy with me
the next time I was in.
He wanted me to know
that my absence was noticed.

I remember Miles and
the little guy
at Edith Cavell Public School
who had difficulties
connecting with others socially,
but picked a flower for me
from the school year.

I loved the kids
who were misunderstood
or underestimated.

I did throughout my career.

In my fourth year
of university,
I learned how to
design lesson plans
and units of study.
I went to music class,
phys-ed, and math.  
It was like I was in
elementary school again.

November brought
our first teaching blocks.
Our associate professors
stood at the front of the room
and announced our placements
in class one day.

I listened as Sharon and Val
called out names
and so nicely described
what a great experience
it would be,
for them.

Amy,
you will be going to Grapeview Public School
in St.Catharines.
It’s a beautiful new school
and you will be working with

a lovely pair of teachers
who work really well as a team…


As for me, I got
Lainie,
you will be going to Plymouth Public School
and you will…
[pause]
…learn a lot.


that was all.

What did that mean?
Where was I getting sent?


To an inner city school
in Welland.

A neighbourhood
with old couches
in front yards,
windows boarded up,
and buildings left vacant.

To a school
where the janitor scanned the school yard
for needles
before the kids arrived
in the morning.
Where the secretary
brought in
mittens
and toques
for kids
during the winter.

It was a school
with a breakfast program
and some colourful language
out on the school yard
(even in the primary area).

Where a supply teacher in the building
usually meant
that a few kids
would be crawling out
the windows.

I loved it.
It was the perfect placement for me.

I was placed in a grade 2/3 class
with Mrs. Gennings.
She was firm and fair.  
A woman that kept students in check,
and her big, mushy heart hidden.
She taught me classroom management.

There was the placement in Niagara Falls
where my host teacher
told me that I lacked creativity
and that he knew my lesson wouldn’t fly
from the moment I started.
I cried, but not in front of him.
He taught me
to not always believe
what others say.


I became a teacher.

After teacher’s college,
I stayed in southern Ontario
and found my own place
in Welland.

It was a basement
bachelor apartment
in a small two storey building,
where the lobby
made you think
it was a seniors’ home.

It had brown shag carpeting
plastic covered, orange floral couches
and 70s lamps and accents.
It also didn’t help
that most of the tenants
looked over the age of 60.

I couldn’t afford
an apartment on the main floor
with large windows and a balcony.
I took the stairs
down
to my little room
with windows that faced
the underbelly of cars
sitting in the parking lot.

I painted the walls
to brighten the space.
My furniture included
a lawn chair,
an old school desk
I used as a TV stand
and
a coffee table I bought
from Goodwill.  
I had a couch
that Connie found for me
and a computer desk and chair
she lent me.

I bought myself
my first bed,
two bookshelves from IKEA,
and a dresser
from Goodwill,
with drawers that didn’t close
properly.

My first apartment
at 26 Dauphine Place.

For September and October
I did supply work
in Grimsby and Welland.
Some days were bad,
so bad that I questioned
being a teacher.
When I had my own class,
I would teach them to be kind
to visitors.

I drove around the region
in my little white car
that I called, Albert.
It was a Sundance
that I bought For $800
from a girl back home.
It barely made it to Southern Ontario.

In November,
I was able to get an LTO
at Plymouth Public School,
which was less than a 10 minute drive
from my apartment.

I filled in for a friend
on maternity leave.
I was the school art teacher,
school librarian,
and did prep coverage
(kindergarten gym and grade 5 drama).

It was a great job
to have for my first year.
I had worked at the library
in our small town,
from grade 8 into high school.
Being a librarian was familiar.
I loved art;  
it didn’t feel like work.
And time with little ones
in the gym,
playing with a parachute
or playing graveyard,
was fun.

And the staff showed me
what it was like
to work as a team.
I felt like I was working with friends.

After school,
you’d often find
myself, Nellie, Brad,
Jenna, Connie, and Monique
hanging out in the office,
sitting on the counter
talking about our day
and laughing about something.

We had ‘poetry club’ every Friday night,
our code word
for meeting up after school
for a drink and something to eat.
Reminders were announced
over the P.A. after school.
The kids thought we were nerds.

I loved my time at Plymouth.
We still talk about
how great that year was.

Once my LTO ended,
I was searching for a job again.

I got an interview at a nearby school,
Gordon Public School.
It was on the other side of the canal
and teaching there
was a completely different experience.

Where at Plymouth,
I spent recesses
breaking up fights
and telling kids
not to swear.
At Gordon,
I didn’t know what to do
during yard duty.

The kids were playing,
and everyone was getting along.
I was basically standing there
to watch them play.
It was surreal.

At Gordon,
I also learned how to communicate
and partner with parents.
They were very involved
in their children’s education,
which was a new experience for me.

I worked on improving
my teaching practice.
I had my own homeroom.
I was now responsible
for planning
math
language
social studies
history
drama
music
and art
programs…
and kindergarten music.

A double Raffi CD
kept the kids and I
singing all year long.
I tried learning how to
play the guitar
(I thought the kids would like it),
but I didn’t get past
learning a few chords.

I got artsy at Gordon.
I wrote a play for my class
to perform for the school
Christmas concert.
I co-planned
An Evening with the Arts
with a colleague.
We planned a trip to Toronto
so our classes could see
the musical, Hairspray.  

I started to learn more about
math practice.
I questioned how I taught the subject
and wanted to improve.  
My principal, Linda,
loved math and invited me
to attend a provincial math conference
with her in Niagara Falls.
It changed the path of my career.

It was the first time in my life
I actually felt good at math.
That’s a whole other story
in itself.


Next…
The Move to York Region