MOM’S EDUCATION

Most of us take getting an education for granted. Many people would do anything to avoid it.  But back in the first part of the twentieth century, it was not a given.

My father-in-law’s education was minimal. He could write his name, but was able to read very little. He was one of the smartest men I have ever known, but he had to work during his childhood to help his mother and ten siblings. My mother-in-law went to school for three or four years, and before their children were old enough, did the reading, or relied on a neighbour down the road – one of the few educated men around.

After grade eight the students had to write “Entrance ” exams for the right to go on to high school. Dad passed it, but couldn’t go on, even though he wanted to, because as the oldest of six children he had to work on his father’s barn.

So Mom was one of the rare young people who went to high school. There was no school bus, so she had to board with a family in Lyndhurst. So at the age of eleven, Pappy would take her there Sunday night with loaves of home made bread, cold boiled potatoes and cold beef. Every night she would warm up the potatoes, and eat it for her supper. I think she had some of the bread for breakfast and beef sandwich for lunch. No matter what the host family was having, it was never shared with Mom. I don’t know how they could treat an eleven year old girl like that!

I think it was the following summer that Pappy uprooted the whole family, and moved them to Detroit. It was at that time that the Ford Company was expanding in leaps and bounds, and needed houses for all the workers. So Pappy went to build houses. Every time I think of them moving from Californy, back of Jones’Falls to the city of Detroit, I keep thinking of the Beverley Hillbillies!!

When Mom started school in Detroit, at the age of twelve, she had already reached her full height of 5’7, which was quite rare for that time. As many tall girls tend to do, she had slumped shoulders, and terrible posture, trying to look shorter. They made her do a full series of exercises to straighten back up. She particularly hated hanging from the monkey bars . All of her girls can tell attest to the fact that we all had great posture! If you slumped, she would strike you between your shoulder blades with the side of her hand! When Dorothy came to live with us at the age of fourteen, and she was even taller, she soon learned to stand tall and be proud of it. Of course, being the shortest by several inches , I always stood as tall as I could!

The academic part of school of course was no problem for Mom, and in four years she had completed grade twelve and was at Wayne University ,aiming at  a four year teachers’ degree. I do not know how she handled tuition – probably worked.

Sadly, for the family, the Depression hit, Pappy was out of work, so decided to take the family back to the farm in Ontario because he knew at least he could feed them. That’s when it hit the fan ! Mom wouldn’t go. She knew if she did, she’d never finish her education. Ma was a lot shorter than the rest of the family, but had the biggest temper, and she lost it. She said if Mom didn’t come with them, not to ever come home again. Can you just imagine how Mom felt to see the family leave, and know she wasn’t welcome back home?

Mom put herself through school by working as a maid for families who were wealthy enough that the Depression hadn’t ruined them. I think Mom worked for two or three families before arrangements were made for her to stay at a residence for women of limited means. I think this was arranged by one of her professors. Her education was three years of classes, and the fourth year she taught a class. I think she told me there were four classes with fourth year students teaching, and a master teacher supervising them.

One year she had a pink dress of very light material which she wore every day, rinsing it out at night. As the fall got colder, a teacher gave her a blue dress of heavier material. For the rest of her life, Mom hated blue! But with a lot of work on her part, some help from people who recognized her unusual talent and intelligence, and helped her reach her goal, Mom got her teaching degree.

Now I have to back up four years. By December of the first year, Mom was so lonesome for the family, she came home for Christmas. I don’t know how she got to Jones Falls, but once there, she started to walk home. Half way home, she met Pappy driving . He stopped and said, “I’ll take you home, but it’s up to your mother” They got back home, Ma came to the door to see why Pappy was home so soon, saw Mom, let out a cry, ran to the truck, arms wide open and gave Mom the hug of her life! I think Pappy knew all along what would happen!    When it was time to go back to Detroit, Pappy planned on selling a cow to get enough money for a bus ticket, but met a man who was a friend of one of his neighbours. Guess where he was headed!! So Mom got back for free.

One summer, when she was home, she went to visit Aunt Ruby who was working for a family in Ellisville. While there, she met the oldest son, tall, dark and handsome, Lloyd Oliver Jones.  They were married on June 30, 1938. They were renting a farm at Sand Lake near Lansdowne. Mom returned to Detroit to teach one more year to get some money to help get the farm going. However just before she was to go, she had a miscarriage . Aunt Ruby went with her, and Mom would teach, come home and collapse and Aunt Ruby looked after meals and everything. Mom came home to stay at the end of that year.

Mom stayed home on the farm for a few years. Starting with nothing, farming is almost impossible, so Mom and Dad decided she should teach to help with the farm finances. But there was a problem.

Even though teachers only had to have grade thirteen and one year of teachers’ college, or grade twelve and two years of teachers’ college, Mom’s four year teaching degree from Wayne University counted for little. There was a third way to get a teaching certificate. You went to summer school for six weeks, taught a year, summer school again, taught another year then go to teachers’ college for a year. It was decided Mom could get her teacher’s certificate if she went to summer school for two summers. So she went to Toronto for a summer, I went to Grandma and Grandpa Jones where Aunt Hilda and Aunt Beulah looked after me.

At that time married teachers could not teach. But there was a shortage because so many of the male teachers were fighting in WW II. There was a school north of Ottawa that hired Mom, and I spent my winters with Ma and Pappy.

After a short time,  the restrictions about married teachers was lifted, and Mom taught at Brier Hill until Virginia was born. Then she stayed home with Sally and Barry joining the flock.

She went back teaching when Barry was two with the help of a wonderful neighbour girl, Myrla Tye, to baby sit the three younger ones. One of the neat things is that Myrla lived in a house by our farm, and she baby sat our two – Christopher and Cindy

She taught in a one room school at Soperton, and then moved to  Pine Grove, near Brewer’s Mills in Pittsburgh Township. When I left the two room school at Joyceville, Mom was hired to replace me. Then they started to build an addition onto Joyceville. One of the trustees, gleefully told her they were advertising for a principal. Now the fact they had gone to school together and of course Mom beat the socks off him when it came to marks, might have had some part in his glee. Mom asked him why they needed to advertise , since they already had a principal. Of course he didn’t dare say it was because she was a woman, so said it was because she didn’t have a degree. Mom told him she’d get one!

Queen’s University counted her degree from Wayne U. as grade thirteen and three university courses, so she needed twelve more. So she took a course every winter, and two every summer and in four years had a B.A.

Mom stayed as principal at Joyceville, which eventually grew to a school with twelve classroom, until she retired in 1977. At the first she was one of four women principals.

Mom never took her life and all the people who had helped her reach her goals for granted. She always paid it forward, and raised us to do the same. Children at Joyceville who had less than most, never realized that those handmade mittens that mysteriously appeared under the Christmas tree in their classroom with their name on the package, had been knit by the very principal they did their best to not get on the wrong side of! She often gave people loans, knowing she might not get it back. Two different times she and Dad had a family living at our house who were out of work. The man helped Dad, and the wife looked after the house. They and their children lived for free and received a small wage. They would stay until they found a job.

Of all the ways my parents influenced the person I am today, the one for which I am most grateful is the understanding that I have a duty to support my fellow man in any way I can .

MY MOTHER LAURA BLANCHE BLACKMAN JONES (PART ONE)

People may have wondered why I haven’t posted for a while. It is because I want to write about my mother and because she was such a complex woman, it is hard to limit her to the written word. I have been trying to figure out how and what to use to describe her.

Just looking at the basic details, she was an impressive woman – farm wife;mother of five – four surviving; teaching degree from Wayne University; having to re-qualify in Ontario; many years of teaching first in rural schools, then two room;  getting her BA degree from Queen’s University at night and summers; became one of the first women principals in Frontenac County (there were four); travelling by herself in a Class C RV after retirement and the list goes on.

The challenge is to try to explain what made her so special. Mom was born March 16, 1912, the oldest of Burton and Myrtle Blackman’s  (Pappy and Ma) four surviving children. The children were Mom, Ruby, Edgar and Stuart. Mom, being the oldest, was Pappy’s assistant and knew everything about farming, very little about cooking! Aunt Ruby was Ma’s assistant, so knew everything about baking (Ma was an amazing baker), even though she also knew about farming, especially after she married Uncle Ted. Uncles Ed and Stu started farming as soon as they were able.

There was an incident which would have handicapped most people, especially women, but served to contribute to Mom being the strong woman she became. When she was six, the summer before she was to start school Mom climbed up to the top of a cupboard and got a dynamite cap Pappy used when building barns. (Pappy was known all over Leeds county for his barns. In fact there is one I know of that still stands straight and true) Mom took the cap outside and holding it in her left hand – her dominant hand-  lit it. Needless to say Mom’s fingers were badly damaged. Pappy took her to the doctor- one of those wonderful country doctors of that time. The doctor was going to just take all the fingers off to the first knuckle, but Pappy stood over him and made him save every bit possible of every finger. It boggles my mind that he was able to stand it. Pappy was an amazing man and seemed to know she would use every bit available. I am trying to remember what was left of each finger. I think it went like this – thumb down to the knuckle, next finger was the most damaged down to her last knuckle – very little there, the middle finger, just to the first knuckle, the ring finger was just scarred and had lost the tip, same for the little finger. Mom has been dead for thirty years, so you will forgive me if I have made some mistakes.

Mom was always very stubborn, and her sons-in-law will tell you that that trait didn’t end with her in the female line!  When she was still a little girl, she was just going to enter the kitchen when she heard one aunt say to another, “Poor Laura. She won’t amount to anything with that hand .” That was when she decided there was nothing anyone  else could do that she wouldn’t do…and do it better!

Mom did not go to school for the next year as her fingers healed and she learned to use her right hand. To  show how it became so natural to her, near the end of her teaching career she was standing by a grade eight girl’s desk helping her with a problem. She was  leaning her left hand on the desk, and all of a sudden the girl cried out, “Mrs. Jones how did you hurt your hand? Are you all right?” This was probably fifty years after the accident!

She began to go to school the following September in grade one at the age of 7. There the teacher discovered she could read, and knew her numbers, and she came home as a grade 2 student! No one knows how she learned to read, as no one taught her. The only thing they figured out was that at night she used to sit on the hired man’s lap as he read the newspapers out loud, and she picked it up. She used to laugh that she came home the next  day she was in grade three, the next day in grade four and if not for long division she would have made it to grade five by the end of the first week! She had seen the pattern the older kids had made doing when doing long division, so she just copied the pattern using random numbers!

As you can probably tell Mom had a near genius IQ. Pappy was close behind, I think. She would go to him with a math problem she couldn’t get, and he would tell her the answer. He didn’t know how to solve it, but knew how it ended! Mom learned how to work back from the answer.

In each generation there is usually one person gifted in math. I am the one in our generation and as Pappy and Mom, I could never understand why you had to put all those needless steps in if you knew the answer. I can remember the frustration I felt when I wrote a perfect exam in Trig , and got 95% because I hadn’t put down all the steps. That can be a problems in other area too. I had a principal who used to say when visiting my grade three class , “That is really interesting RubyAnn. Why are you doing it?” I would say,”I am not sure. I’ll tell you tomorrow!” I would have to re-think the process and tell him the educational reason. Once I came to a process, I would forget the steps I took to get there. Fred Jones is the reason that from then started writing down to steps to defend my methods!.

Mom was the same. She was a very innovative teacher, but probably would have to ponder why she was doing it.

Mom passed the entrance exam to high school when she was eleven, and my next blog will be about her education away from home.

PET PEEVES

By the time you finish reading this, you may think I am annoyed a lot! As I said at the first, I would write sometimes about memories, and sometimes  do some musings. Today I am musing.

I got thinking about this the other day when someone called me “Ruby”. When I was little, I really disliked being  RubyAnn. No one else had that name, I wanted to be something usual like  Mary, Nancy, Elaine or Shirley. As I got older, I started to like the idea of being ‘one of a kind’! The first RubyAnn was my great, great grandmother. Apparently she was a very tall woman, and had jet black hair. I sure didn’t take after her. The next was her daughter, my great grandmother. Her name was actually Ann Ruby, and was called Ann. The next was my Aunt Ruby (she always regretted that her mother had left off the Ann) I never had a problem keeping the Ann. Everyone just knew I was RubyAnn. Even in Teachers’College and teaching. When someone would call me Ruby, I would correct them. I have never been able to figure out why, when I introduce myself, e.g., “Hi, I am RubyAnn”  some people respond, “Hi Ruby“!    Strangely, it is more of a problem since I retired. I was fairly well known in the education business, so the name went with me. I still keep correcting people when ever I can. This probably is my biggest pet peeve! One good thing about having the name RubyAnn was when my niece was starting to talk and Aunt RubyAnn was a little hard and became Aunt B’Ann. All my nephews, my niece and the ‘greats’ call me Aunt B’Ann. I love it.

Probably my next biggest peeve is the improper use of ” I ” instead of  “me”  I think some people think you should always use “I “if possible. It used to be one could rely on the news, etc. for proper grammar, and it would help everyone remember . But honestly, I have heard things like “The picture was given to Mary and I” , “This gift is from Jim and I”. If people would just check by taking out the proper name – Mary and Jim, you realize you wouldn’t say  “It was given to I”, etc.

A close second to the misuse of ” I “, is the lack of “ly” ! I would love to have some magnetic  “ly”signs  and go around adding them to Drive Carefully or Slowly, Play Safely. 

Poor Lloyd, all through a TV show he hears “ly” and “me” yelled from my chair. I really am not part of the grammar police. But these two things really annoy me. It is interesting how some people just naturally know what to say. I never heard my dad, with his grade eight education make an error . Our son Christopher is the same. I noticed when one of my granddaughters was talking, she was just naturally putting in the “ly”  TV used to be a good model – not so much any more.

Another pet peeve is when people say how lucky Lloyd and I are to have a new house and a small place in a resort in Arizona for the winter, to have my teacher’s pension, a family with little conflict, a good marriage. I guess we are, if you consider people make their own luck! Thirty-six years of teaching for me, thirty years of farming plus almost twenty years of working at a marina for Lloyd. We worked hard, spent carefully. and have two kids who want us to ‘spend their inheritance‘ by going wherever we want as long as we are able. We also have worked hard in our marriage. With hard work and God ‘s support, we have been very lucky!

I just hate to hear the ” F ” word used all the time. I will admit I am fascinated that it can be used as a noun, verb, adjective or adverb! One day I was walking on the sidewalk behind some young men, and I actually broke out laughing at how hard they were trying to ” F ” every other word. I especially dislike seeing it so much on FaceBook. It is there so much, that many people will begin to think it is alright to use it anywhere and any time. It is used so often when other words would do just as well. I seemed to have managed to live 74+ years without it and have NO trouble expressing myself. I  find it very offensive.

Have you ever noticed when listening to people being interviewed how they begin their answer?  They might start with “I mean” “Like”, “You know”. These filler phrases must give them a second to begin their actual answer. “I mean” really gets to me, because they haven’t said anything yet, so don’t really have to give a further explanation.

I probably sound like a crotchety old woman! These are just a few of my pet peeves. I am sure others will appear at this site from time to time!

 

 

 

 

ALL THE KIDS I’VE TAUGHT (PART FIVE) MY LAST TEN YEARS- KINDERGARTEN

I always wanted to be a kindergarten teacher, but when I started teaching you had to have grade eight piano. and grade two music theory to teach kindergarten! While I could play the piano, and certainly was able to teach music, my six months of piano lesson and a talent for playing by ear were not enough to get me that job. By the time that was no longer a requirement, I was part of the School of Special Education and they wouldn’t release me. I can remember how annoyed I was when I was teaching at Joyceville and the new kindergarten teacher said she could not teach music and I had to go to her class and teach music!

In the early 1980’s our school board made self-funded leaves available, and I was one of the first group to take advantage of it. For four years I was paid 80%, and the other 20% was invested, and by the fifth year I took the year off and received that saved 80%+interest as a regular salary. Before I went on leave I asked what would happen when I returned – would I be able to choose from any position available, or did I have to go back to special ed. I was told I could choose any position. I was going to leave it at that. but an older teacher said, “Get it in writing” So I sent the letter and received a written letter from the superintendent.

So for the school year 1985-1986 I had my first ever full year off. Cindy was in grade eight, and at a time when most grade 8 students didn’t want their parents around, Cindy was able to say “My mom will!”whenever a parent was needed, and could call home when she forgot her homework! My sister and her husband went to Scotland, and their three year old son stayed with us. Lloyd and I went on a cruise for a week, then stayed another week in Barbados. We came home for just one week, then took off to Venezuela for a week on a trip we had won.

Spring came and I was getting excited because the “Cattle Call” was about to happen. All the available jobs were listed, and one night all the teachers who were returning from being away, or whose job had been squeezed out by a drop in population, came to the Board office, and got to choose by seniority. Then one day the phone rang and it was the special education supervisor calling. He said that he knew I preferred a classroom, rather than in school resource teacher, so they had placed me in a special class in Bayridge.  They knew I’d be happy. I let him know in no uncertain terms that no, I was NOT happy, that I’d been told I could return to a regular class and I had a letter to prove it! So off I went to Kingston, letter in hand to the Board office, blood in my eye. I was so mad I was close to tears! I handed the letter over, and the situation was corrected. However when the superintendent remarked how lucky I was to have the letter I just glared at him.

So the job I wanted of all those listed was junior and senior kindergarten at Elginburg. Lloyd and I drove to my top three choices (I didn’t know where I was in terms of seniority, so wasn’t sure I would get my first choice.). The other schools were nice, but when we drove into the yard at Elginburg, even though it was seven o’clock at night, I felt like I had arrived home.

I had talked to the principal and told him I was interested, and he sounded agreeable to that. Then  just a day before “the” night I got a call from the principal asking me if I would apply for the grade four job, instead of kindergarten. Apparently there was a teacher looking for a place and wanted the grade four class. She had the reputation of not getting along well with students, staff or parents. She was quite obnoxious and would try to push all her opinions on a whole staff and he really didn’t want her messing up his staff.There was a man returning from leave and he wanted the grade four class. Since I was the only one who had more seniority than she did, and she wouldn’t want kindergarten, the plan was I pick the grade four, and the other man would pick the kindergarten, then we would be switched by the principal. I reluctantly agreed, although I was not happy about the deception, even if done for the right reason. That night, just before things started, the principal came over and said the situation had been fixed, and I could choose the kindergarten class – phew! I was the teacher with the most experience – 26 years, and got first pick!

So it began, finally after 26 years, I got my kindergarten class.This was a time of changes in kindergarten. For the first time junior and seniors were together. While those teachers who had taught them separately were not happy, since I didn’t know any different it was fine! I also was used to full day kindergarten, as both my kids had attended one. This was also the time when the focus was on learning through play , which was my philosophy. As a special education teacher I often worked with children, especially boys born in the last three months of the year, who had not been ready for academic work , so I was opposed to them being required to do academic work too soon.. In my class I taught mostly through games, songs and play. They learned an amazing amount just through little stories and games. I did not believe in children sitting still for long periods of time. It wasn’t until the last term that I worked with the seniors making sure they learned anything they hadn’t picked up. I absolutely loved those ten years. At first I couldn’t get over the fact that they learned the lesson the first time, after so many years when a lesson had to be taught in three different ways to get it across!

As well as my class I was involved with other school activities. We did a school musical every year. The very last one, I was conducting what I knew would be my last musical and fought tears, especially the last song. I also taught some music to classes, and did a group lesson with four grades in the gym using the song games I had learned in Education Through Music. I also helped with other school wide activities and themes.

One thing I did was tell stories. I would have them give me three things they wanted in the story, and I would begin “Once upon a time, there was ………” I might have a real challenge e.g., a mirror, a cow and a puppy: a bus, a horse and a flashlight! It was fun, and grade one teachers often commented what good listeners they were. I also wouldn’t show them the pictures in a story book when I read it. When it was finished we would talk about how things in the story might look, what colour the puppy was, and then I would say “Let’s see what the person who drew the pictures thought they would look.” I felt this made them realize there wasn’t always just one right answer.

I always felt a responsibility to give the children and parents a good introduction to school life. Often a parent might have had no experience with school since they were in school, and that might not have been a good experience. I sort of taught the parents, right along  with the kids!

I also was sometimes the first person who had said “no” to the little ones. Eventually they all became comfortable with the structure, and went along being little sponges absorbing everything along the way.

The classes were either the BUNNIES or the STARS. They came two days one week and three the next. At the end of the year we had a kindergarten graduation. They had their hats, received a certificate from the principal, and sang a song from each month, sort of reviewing the year in song.

Of course, there are stories.

One is the privilege I had to teach two children who came from Romania. They were “crib’ babies, who spent almost all of each day in their crib in an orphanage. The first boy had not been in Canada long, and still had the uneven gait from not walking on solid ground very often. He also did not have a lot of English, but it didn’t take long for him to fit in. By the time his sister started (They were not related by blood) she had no problems with the language or physical activity. Their mother was wonderful with them and with me. She brought a photo album from Romania so I could understand how their life had started. They are now all grown up and still so attractive with their dark eyes and hair. This is one of my favourite memories.

Another incident is probably the funniest of all my 36 years of school stories. One day at noon, a little JK student came running up the hall calling my name. I went out to the hall and S. says, “Mrs. Chase, Mrs. Chase, He said the “B” word.” I said “What?” He repeated, ” He said the “B” word!” So in my mind, I am going through all the possible “B” word. Finally I said “S. What did he say?”  So S. says, “He said “F*** !” With great difficulty I solemnly told him to go tell the boy he shouldn’t say that. Then I went back into the staff room, shut the door, collapsed on the couch and howled! When I could stop laughing, I told the teachers. One of them said, “No wonder we’re having trouble teaching phonics!” To my last day, I will remember looking down into those very blue eyes in a sweet little face topped with blond hair, and him looking at me so seriously as he said, “F***”!

One other scary time did not happen at school. One night a coffee maker in the home of one of my little girls shorted out and there was a fire, and C. made her way across the kitchen floor on her hands and knees to escape. It was so frightening.

I have told you about the funniest time, but the saddest will also always be in my memory. One day the father of one of my JK boys was shoveling snow and had a heart attack at the age of 38 and died. The poor little boy never really understood Daddy wasn’t coming back. His mom wanted to sell the big gravel truck, but he wanted it left there for Daddy when he came home.

I could write page after page about those kids. Two classes of 25 each for ten years made a lot of memories.

At that time our school board was encouraging teachers to move to different school after seven years. The only exception was if you were within three years of retiring. By the time I had been there seven years, I was within three years of retirement. I would have moved to another school as I had never considered retiring so young, but I was so disturbed by the way education was going, especially kindergarten, that Lloyd and I decided I had better plan to retire, or I would be fired because I refused to do what I knew was wrong.  I would not start emphasizing academic work for these young kids, when they were not ready. That was not what kindergarten was meant to be. Yes, they did learn a lot, but not the way that was being promoted, and I refused to do assessments for junior kindergarten. There was plenty of time for that. My job was to prepare them for that, to teach them how to learn, to learn to work in groups, to be thoughtful of others. So I sent in a request to be allowed to stay there for the last three years.

I have been blessed in my life. I have a wonderful marriage- almost 55 years, two children and their spouses who all treat me with love and respect, and four beautiful granddaughters who think I am the greatest! I also am so blessed to have been a teacher from age 17 until 54. I have learned so much from them, and hope they remember me with fondness and an awareness that I never wanted anything but the best for them. It was a long time from the first Tuesday, September, 1960 until the end of June, 1996. I am grateful for the opportunity to be involved with hundreds of MY KIDS

MAPLE SYRUP

It is getting to be that time of year. When I was little, having a good season meant money for extras. Our farm was small, and not especially profitable – not for lack of trying on anyone’s part. If we had a good sap season, it meant we might get a new appliance for the house, a new piece of machinery, new spring shoes wouldn’t be so hard to buy. It was very important for the family.

The “Sugar House” was in the field across from the house at the foot of a small hill. The process goes like this. Dad would put the buckets, lids and spiles on the sleigh and go to the ‘sugar bush’ – the maple woods.  First he took his hatchet and cut a spot on the tree through the bark, then he took his brace and bit and drilled a hole, where he inserted the spile. A spile is like a little metal tube with a bump at the front. This is what the sap comes through to get to the bucket. Then the sap bucket was hung on the spile, and  the lid was put on. Many people didn’t use lids, but Dad did because it kept any leaves or dirt out, as well as rain. Then you crossed your fingers it would be a good season..

I can’t remember how many ‘taps’ we had, but we tapped all of our trees, as well as some of a neighbour’s. It was a busy time as the farm chores still had to be done, in addition to gathering the sap and boiling it down.

The sap was gathered on foot. There was a very large sap tub on a sleigh. The top sloped toward the center with a strainer which kept out the bits of wood, moths, etc. The sleigh was pulled by our two work horses. You would carry the empty pails through the snow, dump the buckets of sap into them, and carry them back to the sap sleigh. Sometimes, if it had been a good day for the sap to run, you would make several trips to each little grove to empty all the buckets. The snow nearly always was higher than your boots, and you got snow down inside. The worst time of all was when there was a crust on the snow. You would step on it, and it would almost hold you, down you would go, and if you were carrying sap it splashed down your boot along with the snow collection. You just kept gathering, moving the horses bit by bit, until you finished that bush, and then you took it back to the sugar house to unload.

It is easier now because instead of buckets, they now.use plastic hose which goes from tree to tree, and down the hill to a gathering container.

Dad was a very smart man, as well as a talented carpenter. He built the sugar house below the hill, and we would drive the sap sleigh up the hill to the trough that ran into the sap storage container inside the sugar house. When you went into the sugar house, you would see that huge tank up near the roof, and he could slowly release the sap into the evaporator. Gravity ran everything.

Inside the sugar house was a pile of wood at the far end – all stacked up ; in the middle was the evaporator – in two sections about a total of fifteen feet long,  on a big firebox which ran under it. Next to the tank was Dad’s throne . It was a chair he built way up high over the evaporator so he could see what was going on. He could tell by the size of the bubbles when it was close to syrup.

The sap would come in from the tank as Dad controlled it, and go up and down sort of  lanes going from front to back, making its way to the front evaporator. By the time it got there it had warmed up and was quite hot, Then it had little lanes going across the evaporator, gradually getting thicker. Dad would test it with a dipper. He could tell as it came off the edge of the dipper when it was boiled down enough, and was syrup. Then it was released by a tap . It ran into a milk can with a strainer lined with a felt sieve . Dad would keep testing, and when it was getting too thin, he would turn off the tap, and let in more cold sap, and the process would begin all over. It takes 40 gallons of sap to make one gallon of syrup.

Dad always made sure he had a few jar of dill pickles left and he would eat them to counteract the sweetness in the air! There was constant steam.

We would always have visitors on Sunday afternoon. Syrup making was the only time Dad worked on Sunday, but the sap buckets could run over if not collected, the holding tank wasn’t big enough, and Dad would never catch up if he left it until Monday. Because our sugar house was close, it was an easy walk from the road . Although Dad was basically a shy man, he did love explaining the process to visitors, We also made sure there was a bucket or two hanging over the fence from a tree by the road so that people driving along could have a drink of sap instead of climbing over the fence and breaking it down !

Then the milk cans were carried into the house where it was put in cans – gallon and half gallon as well as empty liquor bottles. Since Mom and Dad did not drink, we had to rely on neighbours and family who did! Mom would weigh them to make sure the density was right. I don’t know what it was supposed to be, but the numbers 13 lb.2 oz keep coming to mind. We had labels which had to be glued on to the cans.

This leads to an only Mom story. One summer Mom had tried unsuccessfully to wash the label off an empty jar of something – maybe mayonnaise.  She wrote to the processor to ask what they used to glue on their labels. They answered her ! She wrote to the glue company and bought some jars of this white paste! – only Mom!!

Mom did not teach from the time Virginia was born until Barry was 2 1/2, so she would gather sap and Dad would do the chores and boil down the sap. Sometimes we would have a teenage girl from the next farm for the kids, but usually I would look after them while Mom went out and gather what Dad hadn’t already collected.

The only time I remember Dad punishing me (that was usually Mom’s department) was one day, instead of hurrying home, the neighbour boy and I had been playing, diverting the water dribbling down the road , making canals. They were very impressive, but Dad wasn’t impressed.  Mom had gone gathering and he was with the baby waiting for me to get home so he could start boiling.

My other ‘OOPS’ moment was also when I got home from walking from school –and yes I did walk two miles!  I was cold, and didn’t think the fire was hot enough. I put more wood in the kitchen stove, and since it wasn’t catching, I did what I had seen Dad do. I threw on some coal oil! It flared up of course, which wouldn’t have been too bad except Mom had baby diapers hanging from a clothes hanger over the stove to dry, and of course they caught on fire. Thankfully she had just carried up a pail of water, and a friend of mine was there. We both took dippers and threw water on the fire. When Mom came in, there was water all over the floor and black bits of cloth hanging from the hanger , a singed ceiling and an empty water pail! The only thing that saved me from not being able to sit down for a week was that I had wrapped the baby up, and put her on the couch by the door, so if we had to escape the baby was ready! She knew she didn’t have to tell me about using coal oil ever, ever again!. The really scary thing is that part of our house was about 200 years old, and would have caught on fire and burned quickly if we hadn’t got it out immediately.

Another OOPS involved my cousin and me. Even after I was married, I would come down on the weekend to help gather sap, as Dad was more comfortable with the idea of me driving the horses. My cousin helped him all week. Lloyd, my cousin Thomas and I set off to gather the sap. I had stopped the horses, put the reins round the sap tub and was gathering sap with the two men. I had to step up on the sleigh because I was not tall enough to empty my pail from the ground.  As I stepped up on the sleigh to dump my pails of sap , Thomas said “Gitty-up” and the horses did! There I was on the very front of the sleigh, sap tank behind me, the reins wrapped around the tank, and nothing to protect me from the horses’ hooves. When the horses realized no one was driving them they started to go faster and faster. By the time I got the reins, and  stopped them, we were about two feet from a cliff dropoff.

I got off that sleigh, toward Thomas, yelling all the time! By the time I finished,  my great big gentle cousin knew 1) it wasn’t funny to tell horses to get going for a joke and 2) while RubyAnn was a lot smaller than he was, she was a force to be reckoned with!

The first run of syrup was ours! – Dad’s hot biscuits and warm syrup – what a treat. Nothing tastes like brand new syrup. We were allowed to bring ‘old’ syrup to a boil and pour it in dribbles on clean snow. Many people call it ‘taffy on snow’, but we called it Jack-‘o-wax.

We had customers who came to the farm to buy, some in Gananoque to whom Mom delivered and then we would also go to the Kingston Market. We sold syrup, maple sugar and sometimes maple butter – which was maple sugar that wouldn’t set! 

Mom always said she would work off winter fat in sugar making, and never had to worry about her weight until Dad stopped making syrup. He stopped because by then that was the only time he needed the horses, the tractor couldn’t make it and if there was a poor year, the only one who made money was the hired man!

I don’t believe there is any work on the farm that is harder – even haying. No matter what syrup costs, believe me, it’s a bargain.

ALL THE KIDS I’VE TAUGHT (PART FOUR)

After I sort of accidentally got into the area of special education, except for one year , I spent the next twenty years in this field. Actually it became the “School of Special Education”, and I couldn’t get out and teach a regular grade. I guess I should never have obtained my specialist in Special Education.

I spent many years at Joyceville in my “Ungraded” special education classroom. We were lucky, because at first, our class was not actually recognized. So we got to put the children in it that we felt would benefit, and actually were able to return some of them to regular grades after a year or two. There was no curriculum, so I made it up. I had about twelve students, ages 8 to 14.It was like teaching several grades in my one-room school. It was very basic. I covered arithmetic, reading, writing stories – always important to me – a bit of science, a lot of music and physical education as well as personal care.

I made a discovery one year. When I got to school in August. the only slot available for phys. ed. was first thing in the morning, so I took it for every day, not the two or three times a week as was usual. We started every day with activity, and had the best year ever! I had proven that movement enhances learning. I also used a lot of music. One thing I didn’t even realize until after, that it was very different from the norm, was when I divided them in three groups, found a little record player for each group, and several LPs of classical music. They were to come up with some type of story, using the music. I will never forget the one where they used excerpts from Pyer Gynt Suite ( I just KNOW I’ve got that completely wrong) They had it as a cowboy story, around a camp fire, which they had made out of tissue paper. It was amazing how they had everything coordinated. When they were ready , we invited the principal (who also was my mother!) to come to see our productions. The inspector just happened to be there, and came to. He was really impressed that these kids, supposedly slow learners,  could do this. That is when I realized something unusual had happened.

One unusual thing I did was having Lloyd build me a 3×3 guinea pig pen, which we put on top of old desks. They were ideal – clean, no odour, couldn’t climb!, easily looked after. The children loved them, and looked after them. I had one boy who would get himself into rages and he started taking one of the guinea pigs and hold it on his lap ,pet it and rock in my old rocking chair. At first it would be rather frantic rocking, and gradually slow down. Then he would get up, return the guinea pig to the pen and get back to work.

During these years, I had our second child – Cynthia Laurene (Cindy) in 1972. What a difference 7+ years can make. Not only did I NOT have to resign, I could teach as long as I wanted. I taught until March Break, she was born April 8, and I returned to teaching in June. I was allowed three unpaid months. I will always remember when teachers started paying into employment insurance – January, 1972. You had to have paid into it for ten months before you could claim coverage. I was so annoyed, I kept threatening to have another baby because I knew I would never claim it any other way!

Also, during these years the last addition was build, and I got a real classroom, and the teachers now had a room, and did not have to sit in the room where all the supplies were kept! I had the fun of designing the room. By then, we were as a  recognized special education program, and there was funding to set up the room. I had three long cupboard on casters built which together were the length of the room. There were electric strips along that wall, so I could plug in where ever I wanted. There were slanted shelves in which to store art work, and materials. It was a dream.

One very unusual thing was the make up of my class – I had several older girls. We learned to do comparison shopping using flyers from grocery store, learned to read recipes, and even made our lunch every other Friday. This was mostly the girls’ lesson, but the boys were involved as well. We would sit down on Monday and decide what food we had to work with, and decide what the meal would be on Friday. One would say her/his mom said she had potatoes , another carrots, sometimes a piece of meat. I bought a lot of stuff , and the principal (Mom) would often supplement our food. One time she bought us a little ham. We baked it, the next week used the bones, and pieces of meat and had bean soup. We also made bread! One unit was exploring the difference in taste, cost and convenience of cooking vegetables or baking cakes from scratch or purchased. It was so much fun.

I was not happy when the powers-to-be had decided to set up some new experimental program in a few schools, one in a  neighbouring school, and who do you suppose they chose to be the teacher, despite my reluctance.  I left my class – everyone in tears – and headed to my next experience. Right from the beginning I did not like the fact I no longer had my own class- no one to say, “That’s my teacher ”  My job title was S.E.R.-  special education resource teacher. Years later after the program was used all over, I went into a meeting as a S.E.R. teacher and came out as a L.P.S. teacher – Learning Program Support.This was to help people understand that “Special” does not always mean learning problems. One year I went from working with kindergarten and grade one children who were obviously going to have problems, get in my car, drive to the main school and teach grade nine math to four very bright grade eight students. I almost had to give my self a shake to go from ‘slow’ to ‘fast’! I would either work in the classroom to help the teacher, or take some children out to work with me – once more in the Teacher’ Room. Later the little satellite schools were closed.

I had been trying to get out of special education and back to regular classes. My principal understood, and was trying to help, when he was told to ” keep his hands off the School of Special Education.” The problem was I had the qualifications and experience. I did manage to teach grade three for one year, and when they tried to put me back in Sp. Ed., I took a half time leave to complete my degree, and was a LPS teacher the other half of the time. After a few more years as a resource teacher, I finally got my own class, albeit a primary special ed. class in another school.

This was a real cultural shock. I went from a school where the children came from mostly middle and upper class families to an inner city school where the majority were on assistance! I had eight children – ages 8 to 10. Multiply that by 5, and that’s what it was like. All but one came from the same type of family. In that school, many in each class had problems learning. What got them entry into my class was behaviour! Well. I wanted a class of my own!

I spent the next three years in that room with the most wonderful children. Once they realized my expectations, for the most part they were well behaved.  I told them they couldn’t help having problems learning to read, but they certainly could help how they behaved, especially when walking in the hall, and I would accept NOTHING else! They worked hard, made the best possible progress. One time a new teacher commented on how lucky I was to have a well behaved class as most weren’t like mine. I could feel myself bristling, but another teacher said she should have seen them when I first started! He saved me from saying something probably a bit rude!

I did some of the same things as with my first class. We did baking, and I talked the teacher of the senior special class into making a Christmas dinner. We had the whole thing. There was some food they had never seen! My class had made rolls and pumpkin and apple pie. We had an inspector, two special ed. consultants, the principal and vice principal serving the food! It was a great success. The children were so pleased with what they had done.

One of the biggest changes teaching in this area was their reaction to special things I did for them. The first Hallowe’en party, I didn’t ask the children to bring food because I knew they really couldn’t afford it. There were times they themselves didn’t have enough food. So I made up a plate for each – celery with cheese whiz, several kinds of sandwiches. pickles, cheese squares and cookies. They ate hardly anything ! I went to the principal in puzzlement. He started to laugh and said they were taking it home to show what their teacher had done for them! I suspect they also shared the food. They absolutely loved anything done for them.

That is when I started wearing bright coloured clothes and big earrings. They would come up and touch them with big smiles on their faces.

One time we made rice krispie squares. The next day one girl came and said her mother wanted the recipe. I was about to tell her to look at the recipe on the box, when I realized she probably couldn’t read it! So I printed it out on a big recipe card, made sure the girl could read it, and sent it home.

One day, we were not having a good day. One girl was out of it, running around the room screaming. I was standing in the door so she couldn’t “escape”. Two other boys decided this would be a good time to hit each other. I thought to myself, ” I gave up nights and summer holidays to get my degree and specialist for this?” I started to laugh! Brenda stopped running around, Walter and Ricky stopped fighting, the whole class staring at their teacher laughing so hard. I told them what I had been thinking. They sat down and started to work. I am sure they were thinking I got along so well with them because I was as bad as they were!

My principal liked to be in control of everything, and we often had some nose-to-nose confrontations. But, there was one area where he let me be in charge and that was the yearly interview with the parents on the achievements of the year, and goals for the next. I believe we both came from home that were short of money and I think he tried to act rather stiff and formal to hide it, and in no way wanted the community to know his roots. As those of you who know me will confirm, I couldn’t act stiff and formal if my life depended on it. I had lots of family and friends who still had problems, and I just talked to the parents as if I was their next door neighbour. I didn’t think anything of it! The principal said in all the years he had been there, he had never heard them talk so much, and really listen. This was one of the few times he told me in person he approved!

I had paid into a self-funded leave. I took 80%pay each year, and the fifth year I received the 80% that had been invested by the Board and had a year’s leave. This was the year they decided to close many of the spec.ed contained classes, and since I was leaving my class got the axe. I was furious, and when the consultant came to tell me, I asked him how he could make that decision without ever visiting my class. He said not all classes were like mine. I was not particularly polite when I retorted, “Then get rid of the teachers, not the classes”  Oh they loved me!

I could not have stayed there too long anyway, or I’d have burned out. It was just too all consuming. I think I  cared too much, and didn’t have the ability to hold back some of me for my sanity as many of the others could.

So. June of 1985 was the end of my years in special education….. on to my last ten years.

 

 

 

ALL THE KIDS I’VE TAUGHT (PART THREE)

In 1965,  I began a new phase in my teaching career. I went from one (or two) room schools with multi grades in each to one room with just two grades – a 2/3 class, although I had the top grade twos, plus five who were quite slow and it was their second year at this grade, the grade threes were all good workers and fun to work with – so I actually had three grades.

There was another change in our life. We had finally decided we just couldn’t make it with only half the income from the farm, so we bought a house on #32 highway, and Lloyd got a job at the Cow and Gate plant. His first job was to help make cheese, and butter, and then at the end Enfalac, which was a baby formula. The first year was a little tough as Lloyd was laid off before he had worked enough for employment insurance, so we survived on my salary. My monthly cheque was just over $300 a month. With that we paid a mortgage, car payment, insurance ,the groceries, etc., as well as baby food! We were sure when he got called back to work, and worked through the winter the next year. We lived there for five years, then bought the farm from Lloyd’s parents, using our house as a down payment on the farm.

I really enjoyed my experience teaching at Wm. Hiscocks School near Gananoque. When I went to school at Long Point School, Mr. Hiscocks was the inspector. I am not sure how it came about, but he told me when I became a teacher, I could teach in his school. In a way I did, since it was named after him. The only real challenge was that the principal was a boy who had gone to high school with me, and he had become a real stick-in-the-mud! One thing I found strange was during an inspection visit, he was very pleased at the visual aids I had made to teach the math lesson. I thought all teachers did that sort of thing. Perhaps I was ahead of my time!

That winter, things were happening back in Pittsburgh Township where I had taught before. That was the year all the rural schools had been closed, and the children were sorted by grades. Because the addition to Joyceville School wasn’t complete, the one room schools were reopened, only this time only one grade per school. The group that this had had the most negative affect on were the seven year olds, going from grade one ( probably only 2 or 3 in their grade) in a one room school to a room full of kids all the same age. The school board realized that those having the most problems would have to spend the next year in a smaller group, so they were going to open another school for this group.

I am not sure who mentioned me, perhaps the inspector, but one of the trustees approached my mother to see if she thought I would be interested, at quite a hefty salary increase. Always ready for a new venture, I accepted, and the next year I was in Woodburn School which was one of the newer one room schools. It had a teacher’s office and indoor washrooms!(the other one room schools did not!) It was the school built to replace the one Lloyd had attended.

So, September , 1966 I started my career as a special education teacher. I had thirteen eight year old boys, most of them unable to read very much. I had no idea what I was doing. My first challenge was that the train tracks ran right behind the school, and every time a train would go by, they would stand up to look at it. So I decided a unit on trains would be a good idea. By the time the boys spent two week tracking every train , as to east, or west, passenger or freight, type of cars, etc., they didn’t stop working to look at them.

The next challenge was behaviour. So I started bribing them (oh, right – using behaviour modification . They could earn so many points a day – as a group, not individually,- and after so many points we could have a party! It worked, except that one of the boys was of the Jehovah Witness faith, and if it was Hallowe’en, Christmas or Valentines, he could not celebrate . I also learned that when they were working, if I played classical music on the record player, they seemed more contented!. One day in the spring, they went to a pond, caught a frog and we had a frog jumping contest!- a lesson on frogs, and measuring.

While I loved it, it was very taxing. A supply teacher told her father-in-law , who was on the school board, that I should have at least one day off a week! I got a bad cold, went to the doctor and got medication, but apparently not soon enough. I became concerned when my legs and hands started to swell. As soon as the doctor saw me,he said to go to the emergency and take a suitcase because he suspected I would be staying. It turns out that I had had strep throat, and I am allergic to the streptococcus germ and it had affected my kidneys and I had nephritis. I hadn’t even realized that my kidneys had almost completely stopped functioning. It was very scary. I lost over twenty pounds of fluid in two weeks. After two weeks, I went home for the remaining six weeks of school. After a pretty quiet summer, I passed a health check, and returned to teaching in September – with a few changes.

It had been decided that not only was being isolated hard on the teacher, it was not the right solution for the boys. The boys from the one side of the township went to the school in their area, and they put me with the rest of the boys, plus a few girls in the teachers’ room at Joyceville. We spent several years there before the next addition was put on the school and we had our own room. I also had to spend as much time as possible sitting down. Lloyd bought an old metal stool with a back, at a sale. He sprayed it gold, and I spent much of that year on my “throne”.

I will talk more about my twenty years as a special education teacher in the Part Four. Part Five will be my last – kindergarten.