After we were married for one year, an opportunity came to teach at the two-room school at Joyceville which was two miles away from home. I applied and was accepted. This was the first of two times I was interviewed , and hired, by the trustees (all three of them) in my living room!
Because I was teaching the senior room, I was the principal! It is a bit embarrassing when you are 21 and have to point out to the primary teacher, who not only has taught for twenty years, but is also a neighbour, that she made a mistake in her attendance register. Because it is so important that the primary teacher is not overwhelmed by numbers when starting the students on their educational path, I took the grade fours. I had 42 students, grades four to eight! There were eight grade eights. This was an extra stress, because there was a pressure that your students did well when they went to high school in grade nine.
There is an advantage to having attended a one-room school, because you understand how they work. I was taking over from a teacher from the year before, who .while was an excellent teacher, had had a few problems. However with so many students, it was quite a job, and I soon realized (with threats from the doctor) that this would probably be my one and only experience of being principal of a two room school! Of course I did it to myself by accepting the ten grade four students which actually should have been in the other room. The inspector told my mom, who also taught in that township, that I was trying to teach each grade as if it were the only grade and was doing too much. I never have been able to take the easier way!
It was an interesting year. I had two great, big grade 8 boys who got on each other’s nerves. One day they got into physical fisticuffs outside at recess. In those days teachers did not do yard duty. Someone ran in to tell me. I rushed out and got between them to stop them. Thankfully John was able to stop his fist about 2″ from my face – I know, how stupid can you be! I brought them in and reamed them out (at which I am very good !) Then I told them if they ever did it again they would get the strap, but I wouldn’t be doing it. They would strap each other. Now of course, I couldn’t have let that happen, but they didn’t know that! It worked. They sized each other up – both six feet tall – and never fought again!
I also had a girl with severe behaviour problems. Some times she had to go into the office to cool down. To this day, if you know where to look , there is my name- now faint- written in Magic Marker in the office of Joyceville P.S..
I solved the question about whether to resign, or tough it out another year by becoming pregnant! Then I HAD to resign. At that time, you could not teach if you were pregnant, and there was no such thing as maternity leave. Thankfully, as often happens with a first pregnancy, there was no telling bump for the remaining four months and I resigned. My mom applied for, and was accepted as the new principal. She kept this position until she retired twelve years later. By that time the school had been added to two times and had twelve classrooms.
I thought my teaching career was over for a while. My mother-in-law certainly assumed that! However it wasn’t long before Lloyd and I realized we needed another income, as he and his father farmed 150 acres, and there just was not enough money for two people starting out. I interviewed and was hired for a teaching position the following year in a grade two-three class. Christopher would be ten months by then, and I knew a woman who only took one child at a time to baby sit. I didn’t have the nerve to tell Lloyd’s parents right away. They were so annoyed at my next move, I decided not to rock the boat any more! Everyone knew, once she had children, the mother stayed home to look after them.
On the next road there was another one room school. Up until that year there had been a wonderful teacher. She had left to teach grade six at the school where I would be the next year. They had hired a young man who wanted to be near Queen’s University to he could work toward his degree. What a disaster! By March, everyone realized he had to go, and they needed an experienced teacher, and fixed their eyes on me! (I was 22!) Again, the trustees came to me to talk to me – in my living room! They wanted me to teach at their school. I pointed out there was no way I could talk to them, since they already had a teacher under contract. They said, well if in a week’s time we find ourselves without a teacher, would you come and finish the year?
This was the beginning of big changes in the school system. The one-room schools were being closed, and they already had a salary contract.They bribed me with the next year’s salary! I said if I could find someone who would come and live at our house, as a nanny, I would. I put an ad in the paper, and immediately got a call from a young woman who had just arrived from Holland to visit her pen pal, and she needed a job. We went up to Kingston and interviewed her, and hired her. We brought her home, and set her up in her room. It turned out her pen pal lived about five miles from our house! It was meant to be! A neat add-on is she and her pen pall became engaged, and married the next year!
The young man was reassigned to another rural school that had even more students and assisted the teacher with the senior grades.
The following three months were some of the most challenging, and most satisfying, of my teaching career. They were in such bad shape. There were two grade one girls. One had learned to read because her family taught her at home, the other one had spent most of the time walking around hitting anyone talking with a pointer! The grade eights were in almost as bad shape. I have a degree in Canadian history and that is the only time I read The British North America Act !! He actually made them copy it! They were so far behind that they willingly came an hour early every morning for extra classes. By the end I only had to fail one boy. He has since told me it was the best thing that happened to him as he had started school a year early. This gave him a chance to mature. He went on to do well in school. He also was the one who told people (when I was around) that Mr. **** did a lot of PT (physical training – in other words let them play outside a lot) but Mrs. Chase didn’t seem to like it! In fact there were very few extras. They worked all day. As young as they were they knew they were in trouble. Added to that was the knowledge that the next year they would be in a room full of children the same age, and they didn’t want to be behind.
At the end of June, the school was closed. This was the end of my multi-grade teaching. I went home to my baby, the nanny moved to the home of her fiance and got ready for a new teaching experience.