It’s the first day of school. As I have mentioned in another post, I don’t believe I ever returned to school before hearing Jerry Lewis close out his annual Labour Day telethon by singing You’ll Never Walk Alone.
Fifty years ago I was entering grade three. I still live around the corner from the school but it has changed so much any nostalgic feelings are quickly quashed.
At this time of year I often think back to my school days. This year it struck me that although the vast majority of teachers I had, it is the lousy ones who I remember most. The high school French teacher who moon lighted as a piano player in a bar. Most mornings he was still drunk or hung over, but worst he went to Mexico over the Christmas holidays and never returned. A string of substitutes made preparation for province-wide 100% final exams dicey at best.
There were screamers and ranters along the way, perhaps trying to channel their emotions in the relatively new non-corporal punishment school environment. The old crack across the back of the head being no longer acceptable. I recall the principal coming to our grade two class to give a child the strap. He was a large over-weight oaf of a man who seemed to take pleasure in removing the weapon from his inside suit jacket pocket and applying it several times to the seven-year old’s hands. No Doubt hoping this little act would serve as a deterrent for the rest of us.
Returning to school after summer holidays for grade seven was like walking into a new dimension. No longer was it called grade seven, it was now Secondary One. And the small close-knit group of students who had been together, with some shifts of course, for six years had been overrun with students bussed in from other schools now close, the baby boom having run its course. But we adapted and came to know the new kids and formed new friendships, as children will do. But there was a bigger problem.
With this influx of students, someone had the bright idea that the nun who had been the principal for many years would be easy prey (pray?!?) for these newcomers. So they brought in a new principal. In all of my years of education, from grade school through graduate school, I cannot think of a more miserable cuss than this guy. Had he been dealing with university-aged students it would not have posed a problem, but to unleash this abhorrent man on youngsters was questionable. He would have fit in well as a character in a Dickens novel had he been just marginally more human. His was not a magnetic personality.
He was a short balding beady-eyed man whose face would have cracked if he smiled, yet somehow remained intact when he sneered. One of his favourite methods of communicating with students in the corridors was to snap his fingers. God forbid a custodian should miss a scrap of paper as this would lead to the next student passing by to be snapped at, a finger pointed at the offending paper, indicating that the student was to pick up this trash and dispose of it. Not a friendly could you just pick that up chuck that in the wastepaper basket Jim, oh no, finger-snapping.
I do not know what became of him, nor do I really care. But I promise to give equal time to the many good educators I encountered in an upcoming post.