by Shannon Talbot
I wrote this post back in the spring while living with my parents in my childhood home during the first wave COVID and thought it was fitting to publish today.
I walk down Blake Street and pass the one-story, two-winged, orange brick primary school I attended: Robertson Memorial, now Goderich Public School. I pass the big soccer field, playground equipment and baseball diamond. I can still picture the school bell ringing at 8:50am and am I right did we go until 3:50pm? I see the same bike rack where I parked my banana seat bike that I had for way too many years and the different doors I went in as I went up in grades.
Perhaps I’m extra nostalgic during these strange, never would have dreamed of times or perhaps it’s that I haven’t lived in my hometown for 18 years and now that my family is staying with my parents for a few months during the coronavirus (wave 1), my childhood memories are more vivid as I walk past the school each day with my boys.
From the outside, I walk by each classroom - the kindergarten room with its own outside play area, the primary and junior wings, the library where I can picture us sitting on the floor while being read to, the gym where we had hot dog lunches with McDonalds orange drink and where we celebrated the ’88 Olympics with each classroom representing a country. The gym where I performed ‘If I had a Million Dollars’ in a lip sync concert, gave my speeches on phobias and my gerbil and gathered as a school for Christmas caroling and assemblies.
I walk one block east to my high school where I can still picture A, B and C wings, the cafeteria (where let’s face it, I don’t have fond memories of and why my friends and I would go to people’s houses and cook Kraft Dinner instead), my locker, each year’s hangout spot and doing ringers (i.e., walking A to C halls) to pass a cute guy. The office. The place of getting late slips or forged absence notes (never me of course *cough*, *cough*). And lastly, I pass the English media room, the room you get to from outside which meant running there in the winter.
But more than brick buildings and playgrounds and hallways, I remember the teachers. Teachers, whom according to Webster’s Dictionary, "are ones whose occupation is to instruct". Well, I’m sorry Webster’s but a teacher is so much more than just one who instructs. Teachers mould our foundation. They open our eyes to new possibilities and how to pursue our dreams. They provide us with support and guidance and for some kids, they may be the only positive influence in their life. Teachers helped shape who I am today and are helping shape who my boys will become.
For this, I wanted to highlight a few fond memories of teachers who greatly influenced my life and who are influencing my sons’ lives. As I’m writing these memories, I’m realizing it’s not what I learned from the lessons or textbooks that stand out, but rather those times when I felt personally connected and impacted by my or my sons’ teachers and school administrators.
To you whom:
Assigned the project of creating an autobiography where I talked about my family, including my now deceased grandparents, and my dreams. This is one of the best mementos a person could ask for, let alone a memento from primary school. (Side note, I also wrote that I was Irish which isn’t true although perhaps helped influence my love of Ireland).
Dealt with the difficult situation of girls picking on one another and had us work together as a group to confront it.
Taught me chess and othello which I’m now starting to teach my boys.
Introduced me to track and field and cross-country when other sports turned out not to be my thing.
Introduced me to business, Spanish and the idea of traveling in grade 11 which helped define my career path.
Showed me empathy by pulling me out of class to ask how I was doing when my mom was diagnosed with breast cancer and letting me know you were there to talk if I needed it.
Helped me out in OAC when my overall grade average was just below what I needed to get into my dream University program and gave me extra assignments to get the grade I needed.
Encouraged me to test a new way of presenting to the class and started my love of delivering presentations in a confident, yet interesting way.
Called me at home after an English exam to let me know how well I could write under pressure, giving me confidence and kickstarting my love of writing.
And to my sons’ teachers and school administrators:
You are amazing.
You are patient.
You are kind.
You always want what’s best for our boys.
You visited us at Sick Kids and organized cards, messages and gifts from the class.
You have already taught them so many valuable lessons beyond reading, writing & math. Things like having a growth mindset, meditation and using your imagination.
You have shown such tremendous support to them (and us) both before and during COVID and we are so thankful.
And to all teachers (including my mom, a retired teacher who homeschooled my boys during the first COVID wave):
You are amazing.
You are doing a great job.
You are showing our kids what true leaders look like.
You are resilient and adaptable and inspiring.
Thank you for all that you’re doing.
While I can’t wait for my kids to physically get back into the classroom, they are acquiring new skills and a resiliency that will be of tremendous value down the road. Watching my grade two son have to learn how to share his screen and present his work last week was a super proud moment for me and one that wouldn’t have happened so early if it weren’t for the pandemic.
Over the next little while we have the gift of being flies on the wall in our children’s classrooms, and while I feel for the teachers knowing their audience is much greater now, let’s enjoy these moments while they last and be grateful to their teachers and all that they do.