OPINION: Starting school, teacher finds what’s old is new again

Marg Johnson

If you want to work with kids, you have to expect the unexpected.

Many concepts were drummed into our heads while studying for Child and Youth Worker certification. One of the most useful was this: Until you have a strong therapeutic relationship with a child, never ever let him or her become aware of any weakness or insecurities you might have. There are potential consequences related to the disabilities and social concerns of the young people worked with.

In other words, don’t ever let them see you’re not on your game.

My friend, Ms. R., is a wonderful teacher, who due to physical issues was unable to teach for a couple of years. This month, she finally returned to teaching a Grade 4-5 class in a new school with a totally supportive staff, in a small community north of Newmarket.

The first days of a new school year are predictable in their unpredictability. Nobody knows where they’re going; nobody knows how the teacher will relate to the students; nobody knows the boundaries in the new class; nobody knows exactly what to expect throughout the first week.

The last thing you expect to hear is that nobody thought to set up a classroom for the new teacher. There were empty desks and chairs for students, a teacher’s desk, and a teaching desk. That was it. A lovely, freshly painted, bright, wonderful, empty room. Registration occurred only in the week before school, and class lists weren’t available until that first day.

Remember the rule above? There couldn’t have been a situation more suited for disaster.

To the delight of my friend, the children quickly united and came onboard. In the middle of the first week, the principal came into the class with the good news that the light for the smart board had arrived.

But before he left, he received an earful from one of the young boys who stood up and clearly stated all of the other things they needed. It was wonderful the smart board had a light, but where was the laptop they needed to make it work? And where were the textbooks, pencils, notebooks and other things the class needed?

My friend was mortified, yet proud of him. And then, to her delight, a shy little girl stood up and defiantly said, “But don’t worry, Mr. X., we are doing it “old school.”

And with that, the bond between teacher and class was cemented. Presumably they will get the supplies they need soon, but if not, these young kids are happy to do it “old school.”

Sarnia resident Marg Johnson is a retired Certified Child & Youth Worker who worked with behaviour children as an educational assistant for 15 years at the York Catholic District School Board.