In order to earn my teacher certification in the late ‘60’s after completing thirteen years of school, I spent one year at Hamilton Teachers’ College.
It took another two years of actual teaching with a yearly inspection to receive my final certificate, enabling me to teach from kindergarten to Grade 10. Ontario schools were desperate for qualified teachers so teaching jobs were plentiful. My first class consisted of 42 ten-year-olds, half my age.
When I met my husband-to-be in the early ‘70s he had already been active in the workforce for a few years, and with my summer and part-time jobs, which were also plentiful at the time, we were able to start married life without any debt.
A year after marriage, on our combined salaries, we were able to buy a piece of property and start building the basics of our family home, much of which my handy husband completed himself over the years that our three children were born.
Looking back, I realize that life’s welcome mat was out for us. And along with our cohort we seized the opportunities.
Presently, as far as I can tell, life’s welcome mat is not out for our eight grandchildren. Teacher training now requires four years of post-secondary schooling and another two years of focused teacher education.
Also, the graduate is saddled with debt that no part-time or summer job could cover, when there are part-time or summer jobs available. Teaching jobs are also hard to come by. A newly-trained teacher would have to take several years of temporary work in order to finally get a permanent position.
Housing prices, although not high in Sarnia-Lambton, are still mostly out of reach for twenty-year-olds, and affordable rental housing is not easy to come by. The costs of establishing a household and raising a family have also risen.
We are in the midst of an election period when we all have to decide what kind of a country we want to live in and create for future generations. As in any election, there is a lot of, “What’s in it for me?” That is especially true for seniors, since seniors like myself vote.
While I have great empathy for seniors who find themselves living in poverty, without pensions, resources, or family support, our cohort was a favoured generation born at a time of great hopefulness, economic growth, exciting new products and many opportunities.
On Oct. 19, I hope that you will consider voting for future generations, your grandchildren and mine, and all those yet to be born.
Let us make sure that life’s welcome mat awaits them as it did us.
Thea deGroot is an active Canadian with fond memories of the children and adults she had the privilege of learning with.