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.