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A favourite sport of some social conservatives…

… is to bash and slash pretty much any opinion, line of work, profession, whatever, that does not line up with their narrow philosophies.

The teaching profession is often the target of these self-styled critics. I follow a guy on Twitter who goes on and on about the inadequacies of our public school system and how the private sector can offer better alternatives. Teachers and their unions are often the target of his vitriol. Teachers are seen as largely lazy and unmotivating opportunists who are sheltered from criticism by their culture and especially their unions.

Kelly Egan composed a touching and illustrative piece in the Citizen the other day about teachers and teaching. You should read it. There are teachers out there who are the stars of their professions. They exemplify what educators should strive to be.

I was fortunate to have a few of these teachers during my years in the public education system. I would like to thank them for helping to form what I became today.  They gave a damn.

Audrey Tournay – my Grade 11 grammar/creative writing –  she taught me how to write and to appreciate the importance of grammar and structure.

Dick Facer. My Grade 11 English Drama teacher.  Sadly, he passed away just last week. He had a kick-ass sense of humour, treated students with a great deal of respect and  managed to engage students who were otherwise hard to reach.

Judy Cardwell. Another English teacher. I know many of my contemporaries could not stand her as she was sometimes aloof and was a very hard marker. But she listened to my sometimes irreverent take on modern novels and graded me according to the strength of my argument and not on whether or not she agreed with it. I still remember the look on her face when I handed in an essay entitled “Stone Angel: a glorified Harlequin romance novel”! But she gave me an “A”.

Finally, the one teacher who above all others turned me into the monster I am today was Paul Gray – my Grade 13 Canadian History teacher.  My love for politics – and Canadian politics in particular – can be 90% credited to him (the other 10% to my Mom and Dad). He listened. He debated. And he wouldn’t put up with any BS in his class.

Paul was most famous for his annual Grade 13 field trips to Ottawa. On his own time and much of his own dime, I suspect. We were put up at the Y on Catherine Street and Paul organised two full days of meetings and activities with political-types. He was quite active with the parry Sound Liberals at the time plus he had a brother who was a Parliamentary reporter – so he had some connections. We met with Roméo LeBlanc, Jean-Luc Pépin and one other Cabinet Minister… I think it was John Munro.

And of course we sat in the Gallery of the HoC and listened to Trudeau, Broadbent and Joe Clark yell at each other! If I recall, the debate of the day was the NEP – which still brings a flutter to the Albertan heart, I’m sure…

The “thing” is that educators like Paul Gray, Judy Cardwell, Dick Facer and Audrey Tournay – each in their own way- gave a more than just a damn about their chosen profession. They were cognizant of the fact that what they did and said on a daily business would influence the lives of the young and the impressionable. Sure, we can all rhyme off those teachers with whom the experience was somewhat less than positive. But for me, those were the exceptions to the rule – and not the rule itself.

Thanks to you all.





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