Wednesday, January 23, 2013


Good or bad, collectively, teachers have a significant influence upon our lives, and some teachers in particular leave us with imparted knowledge and impressions that remain with us for our lifetime.

My graduation from high school was in June 1971, which invariably dates me, but at the same time indicates that a considerable number of years have passed and upon which I believe shall permit me to make my distilled comments that follow. 

The following are my selections.

The Best High School Teacher I ever had

Mr. Marriott taught the woodworking half of the year-long course that was then known as Industrial Arts. 

I had already possessed an interest in woods and making things out of wood, however, in that particular woodworking class Mr. Marriott opened up a whole new world of possibilities to me that I never knew existed. During those 6 months I learned about different types of woods; softwoods, hardwoods and exotic woods. 

Mr. Marriott taught me how to use, sharpen and care for many types of hand tools, including unusual and obscure hand tools. In time, Mr. Marriott also introduced me to powered tools with safety always being front and foremost in his teaching and then he taught me how to use those tools; table saws, lathes, jigsaws, jointer planers, belt sanders, drills, routers, and perhaps a few others. 

Of course few wood projects are complete only after cutting and assembly. Mr. Marriott taught me about wood finishing and explained in detail about the various types of abrasive papers and wood finishes that were available
The curriculum he taught from may have been what was required, however his teaching of this subject came from his genuine love and knowledge of woodworking.

Today I have my own woodwork shop with an assortment of hand and powered tools and a supply of many types of woods with which to work. 

I can never turn on my table saw without being reminded of safety first...always. 

Thank you Mr. Marriott.

The Best Elementary School Teacher I ever had

Mr. Saunders was my Grade 7 teacher and he certainly had a remarkable gift for explaining and teaching.

I was one of those students who had absolutely no interest whatsoever in school or any of the subjects we were required to learn. Simply put, I was floundering and headed for academic failure.

Mr. Saunders made time to bring a group of us in early to school prior to classes to teach us mathematics until we truly understood the subject. One problem area that I had was understanding equations. He persisted until I understood and knew what an equation was and how it worked; something I have never forgotten to do and still use at times today.

Mr. Saunders also taught me how to write; to take ideas and thoughts and present them on paper. He would not hesitate to tear pages out of my note books and make me write and re-write the stuff I had written. He wouldn't quit on me until my writing made some semblance of sense. Little did I imagine or realize at that time how writing would one day completely change my life.

Mr. Saunders was honest and would never hesitate to call garbage, garbage, including the stuff he had to teach. In the middle of teaching he once tossed a textbook into the garbage can and then explained to us that the real world we would eventually face was far different from the unreal nonsense in the textbook he had just tossed away. He never used that textbook in our class again.

If Mr. Saunders had not been my Grade 7 teacher, then I probably never would have made it through high school. 

Thank you Mr. Saunders!

The Best School Teacher I Never had

Mr. Ramsay was a history teacher in the high school I attended but he was never one of my course teachers and I was never one of his class students. That being said does not mean that Mr. Ramsay did not teach me anything and that I did not learn anything from him.

Mr. Ramsay possessed an interest and knowledge of movies and films that everyone one in the school knew about. Without exaggeration, he could easily have rivaled the late Elwy Yost for film enthusiasm and knowledge.

Mr. Ramsay spent countless hours outside of class times overseeing and looking after the school's audio-visual needs. He could usually be found in the "A/V Room" which was probably his unofficial office. In addition, he oversaw the Film Society and the group of us who became involved. Under Mr. Ramsay's constant guidance the Film Society rented and presented after school movies. We learned about the business side of presenting films and we also learned how to correctly use the required projection, sound and lighting equipment.

In summer 1970 Mr. Ramsay selected me (one of two students chosen to represent our school) to attend a special two-week summer course that the National Film Board of Canada was hosting. During those two weeks The National Film Board graciously permitted us almost unrestricted access to their resources, including equipment and film, artistic talent and teaching.

We had a course outline to follow and the very first day we were all given Polaroid cameras and film and instructed to travel around Montreal for six hours capturing photos that depicted contrasting images of order and chaos. Later, we were gathered to display our results and discuss our recorded subjects. 

Mr. Ramsay and I spent most of those six hours walking around and through the streets of Ville St. Laurent, (Including places where we were probably trespassing) grabbing photos of scenes that we thought depicted our understandings of either order or chaos. We also strolled around to the rears of factories and warehouses, and at one location stumbling upon a group of workers who were hiding out to avoid working. We spent time just talking to them and eventually they showed us inside a warehouse where we also grabbed a few photos. The highlight of my day came later when we sneaked into a railway yard, quickly took photos of tracks and equipment and then quickly departed.

Mr. Ramsay always encouraged us to shoot rolls of film and make our own movies. He was never critical of our chosen subjects but willingly offered advice about improving lighting or how to frame a scene for better effect.

Again, I was never a student in one of his classes and he was never one of my official teachers. Nonetheless Mr. Ramsay was my high school mentor and a friend who inspired artistic purpose in a confused teenager. He taught me that high school could also be meaningful and constructive outside the classroom; because it rarely was that in most classrooms.

I owe Mr. Ramsay a debt of gratitude that I can never repay.

The Worst Teacher I ever had

As I mentioned at the outset, I graduated from high school in 1971, however, my marks were poor and certainly not good enough to for gaining acceptance into higher education. I chose to return to high school for one more year to try to raise my marks.

Mr. Welch was a teacher in one of the classes that I was repeating. In the first fifteen minutes of that very first class he found out that I was repeating the course. In front of that entire class he humiliated me by calling me a failure and yelled at me to get out. When I tried to explain my reason for being in the class he just kept yelling, "Get Out!! Get Out!!"

As instructed, I walked out and never returned to that class. 

If I was a failure as a student, then Mr. Welch was the greater failure as a teacher.

I learned two things from that abbreviated class:

1. To first listen to what another may have to say in response to a situation.

2. To never inflict upon another that same lesson I learned from Mr. Welch.

Thank you Mr. Welch but you were a horrible teacher.

If I have any regret today, then it is having waited more than 40 years to write these words and to thank these teachers for the influence they had upon me.

The Oddblock Station Agent

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