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GUEST COLUMN: What Some Teachers Also Teach Us

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By Bob Boulton

Bob Boulton

I have forgotten why I learned Latin, or past participles, or something called quadratic equations. On the other hand, I do remember some of the sideways actions and comments of my high school teachers.

For many of us, these small recollections lounge around, unnoticed and unorganized, on the fuzzy edges of our busy lives. Perhaps for years, from time to time they step forward. Uninvited. Unexpected. We trade anecdotes at chance reunions. “Oh yeah! Remember when?”

Here’s an example memory. Mr. Norfolk was our Grade 9 Art teacher at Sarnia Central, and the Staff Advisor of our Hi-Fi Club, every Wednesday at 12:30. He wrote the lyrics for our school song ‘Sing We of Central.’ Legend has it that he used his extensive personal record collection to ‘borrow’ the ‘Sing We of Central’ melody from an older pop song. While I don’t know, haven’t yet discovered, what that song was, I still hope to find out.

‘Sing We of Central’ song. (Submitted photo)

I do know my worst Grade 9 class was Mr. W’s wood Shop. “Boulton,” he told me, “You’re the kind of student that makes me wish I was a farmer.” He looked again at my version of a tabletop bookstand with a carved ‘swan’ decoration on its face, checked off ‘Completed,’ waved me away and grunted “Next.”

Grade 10. Our English teacher, visibly shaking, reprimanded Valerie, in front of the whole class, for making an error both wrong and “ridiculous, the very idea” – spelling ‘grey’ as ‘gray’ in her homework. I had to look away, pretending not to notice that Valerie was pretending not to cry.

In Grade 11, I remember the grace, good sense and mercy of my Geometry teacher who gave me a C when a D would have been generous. Once I got past Isosceles I was pretty much lost.

When I was in 12D – the D part gives you an idea of my academic achievement level – we were directed in our high school play by a splendid encouraging teacher who wore cowboy boots just visible beneath her proper long skirt.

Sanding off the edges, here are five of the important lessons teachers taught me.

To try hard even if your ‘swan’ looks like an extra-terrestrial goose. I kept that book stand on my home desk, with some pride, for many years.

To differentiate between truth and the uninformed outbursts of ill-advised authorities. Grey / gray has been spelled both ways since the 14th century.

Cheerful forgiveness is a strength. After all, I did learn how to pronounce hypotenuse.

Be yourself – cowboy boots and all. Even if Hollywood or Stratford doesn’t come calling.

Oh, and if anyone remembers where Mr. Norfolk borrowed the tune for ‘Sing We of Central,’ let us know.

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