In my CBC Radio column this month, I ask: who was your most important teacher when you were growing up? Take a listen over at the Island Morning website.
I thought this month I'd include a transcription, for those more inclined to read than listen.
No one liked my grade-five teacher Mrs. Griffith.
She was ancient. Gosh, she must have been almost fifty. She made us sit still. No talking. And... she made us learn grammar.
It was awful.
My grade fell through a gaping hole in writing curriculum. The class ahead of us was the last to be taught with phonics. The class behind us was the first to learn with whole language. My class, well, we didn't get taught either.
One day, after Mrs. Griffith watched yet another kid struggle with turning words into a sentence, she threw up her hands.
"Okay," she said. "Books away. For the next two weeks, I'm going to teach you grammar. Don't tell your parents."
Everything was done on the blackboard so it could be quickly erased to leave no evidence of this rogue teaching.
In two weeks, we learned about nouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs, prepositions, and conjunctions. We learned to punctuate. We learned about the difference between a definite and indefinite article. We learned about subject verb-agreement. And we parsed.
Oh, did we parse.
At the time, we hated it. 25 years later, I can see it was the most important two weeks in my 17 year schooling career.
Let's seek some collective wisdom. Who was your most important teacher when you were growing up?
I remember confessing to my grade four teacher the year I wanted to write a novel. He didn't exactly scoff, but he made it clear it wasn't worth trying.
The next year, I said the same thing to Mrs. Griffith. She ordered me a book about how to develop plot and characters.
So I wrote. I filled a Hilroy notebook with a novel which borrowed
heavily from the plot, structure, and characters of the movie Back to
Mrs. Griffith taught me the basics--the stuff she thought was important. But she also gave me the freedom and encouragement to chase after the thing I thought was important.
I think about that a lot, because we're homeschooling our kids. Just this week, my son Henry created his own card game. The characters, rules, and card layout are almost identical to the Pokemon Trading Card Game.
I'm just as proud of this accomplishment as I am when I watch him parse a sentence. Which, I'm happy to say, he can do like a pro.