Retirement Remarks

Tonight is a celebration! A celebration of special moment memories and melodies as we present our thoughts of the hundreds of years of great teachers and teaching represented in this room. Walk with us through our careers as we share the treasures in "Our Teachers' Trunk".

Thirty some years ago, each of us signed that precious green contract which gave us our first opportunity to really have our own class in our own school. We were in our second year out of high school after a whole year away at teacher's college and had those weeks of practice teaching - in rural one room schools and in the big city so we were ready for anything now. If we did a good job, we could look forward to being offered a permanent white contract in two years after, of course, we had been "inspected" by the superintendent

The curriculum, which was touted as being the new and better way to teach the children of Ontario, was printed in two books - a gray one for grades one to six and a green one for the Intermediates. Classes were large - maybe 34 in a room with the kids sitting in rows with desks full of textbooks, pencils and fountain pens. Ink wells fit nicely in the round holes in the older kids' desks. Each morning we began the day with a reading from the Bible, supplied by the Gideon Society, followed by the recitation of the Lord's Prayer and the singing of God Save the Queen. The red ensign flag hung in the corner of the classroom.

One of the problems for us, you remember, was making sure that the seams in the back of our nylons were straight because skirts were short, heels were high and the chalk board was well above the floor. And bending over those primary desks .... and maintaining one's dignity.... On the weekends, we could wear hot pants but we hadn't better be seen in public or in a local bar! Every morning we spent an hour or so before school covering said chalk boards with the day's work. If the class was slow in copying, "P.L.O." told the custodians not to wash that part of the board that night.

Schools were being built at a great rate throughout the province. Portables appeared as if by magic over night around existing structures as we waited for additions to open. The open concept area was "in" and libraries in schools were considered a new innovation for the sixties.

The infamous strap was kept in the top desk drawer in the principal's office to be brought out only for the worst offences. As a new teacher, you hoped you would not he called upon to administer this hands on discipline in your room. Being the witness and having to sign the book was bad enough.

Friday afternoon was often spent having a Junior Red Cross meeting with the pupils supplying the entertainment. The music consultant came once a week and you followed up from his lesson with songs from Songtime led by you and your trusty pitch pipe.

Months of hard work went into preparing those little kids for their one night of glory at the Music Festival every May. Remember the rhythm bands? And plays and concerts were the word of the day for the monthly assembly in the gym.

For those of us who began our careers in Sarnia, remember Ralph St. John with his black and white 16min films as he went from school to school showing the latest in technology to the students?

Registers had to be kept so carefully with every error corrected with eradicator so that the principal would not find a mistake at month's end. A straight pen was the very best to use in the eyes of the principal. A returned register was a black mark against a fledgling teacher looking for a permanent contract. Student marks were recorded carefully in the "brown book" and student report cards, written in proper penmanship, were distributed three times a year. It was wise to keep a "carbon copy" of your comments "just in case".

Federation dinners, often held at Patterson Memorial church, always required a new hairdo if not a hat and gloves.

We thought we had reached the height of modern advancement when gestetners were purchased for the schools. We could write on the plastic sheets with a special stylus and a backing sheet behind or type on them with our new electric typewriters and run off dozens of copies.

We could read poems about being happy and gay and it meant what it said. Mice were four legged gray rodents we had living in the back cupboard under the sink and music was played on record players.

The world was shocked in 1963 when John F. Kennedy was shot in Dallas on a November afternoon. Some of us can remember exactly what we were doing when we heard the news. I was in a classroom in King George VI School when the PA came on with the newsbroadcaster reporting the incident.

The Ed Sullivan show was an 8 pm Sunday night occurrence. The Beatles had arrived in Canada from their successes in England. And there were flower children in California! Why women had even been declared "legal" in Quebec and a new Canadian flag introduced by Lester Pearson was flown for the first time in 1965. We hummed tunes from My Fair Lady and the Sound of Music and enjoyed movies like Dr. Zivago, and To Sir with Love. Bonanza, The Tonight Show, Hawaii Five 0 and Peyton Place were the rage on TV and who could miss an episode of The Fugitive.

Living and Learning was introduced to the schools of Ontario and touted as being the new and better way to teach the children of Ontario. The NDP party was formed and an astronaut walked on the moon at the end of the decade. Small rural school boards were amalgamated into county boards and one could mail a letter for a nickle. Chargex (later called Visa) was presented to the people of Canada during the height of Trudeaumania. Sesame Street, which could be viewed on those brand new colour TVs, was going to be the ruination of all young children. Canada now had two official languages and one could buy a building lot on the lake in Sarnia for $18,000.

Remember the time you formed a little committee and quivering and shaking entered the principal's office to ask permission to wear slacks to school? Most groups were successful but the restrictions were firm - a tunic top long enough to cover the backside and matching pants - preferably of a heavy polyester fabric. What a step forward for women! Oh and remember those Masters' Dances held every June upstairs at Kenwick? That was an occasion for new long dress, wasn't it?

The decade of the seventies was the time of women's rights. Why we even allowed female Mounties and working women to apply and be granted maternity leaves - without having to resign their jobs as soon as they "showed".

David Lewis declared that "woman's place is in the home ... but she can get out sometimes ... if she is not too noisy". Pantyhose became available and garter belts went the way of the dodo bird.

We enjoyed Jaws and the adventures of Luke Skywalker in Star Wars in the theatre and Marlin Brando created The Godfather. Jack Nicklson brought tears to our eyes in One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest and we tested the power of the devil in the Exorcist

Sarnia native Pauline McGibbon was appointed Lieutenant Governor of Ontario in 1974. There were 261 men and 1 woman in the country's parliament. Lassie was the only female TV star. Boy, we had a long way to go for women's equality.

Ditto machines and purple fingers replaced gestetners and black ink stains in the schools and program councils were the newest way to have input in education in Lambton County. Curriculum was adjusted and recess shortened to accommodate a 20 minute French periods for intermediate students only. Staff rooms were segregated by gender and staff washrooms were labelled male and female.

There was another war between the Arabs and the Jews in the Middle East and American diplomats were smuggled out of danger by Canadians. The Shah of Iran was in trouble again. Michael Jackson did the Moon Walk and country music with Kenny Rogers and Johnny Cash was high on the popularity list.

TV series - The Mary Tyler Moore Show, Room 222, All in the Family, M A S H and Happy Days entertained the parents as Captain Kangaroo, Mr. Rogers and the Polka Dot Door brought the world of make believe to the youngsters in our classrooms. Annie and Jesus Christ Super Star were the hits in the music field.

We bid a fond farewell to the Eaton's catalogue and Quebec had the first of its decisions to remain with Canada. Joe Clarke made history books as the shortest lived prime minister on record and Trudeau was back in 1980 to keep Canada in line.

The women teachers celebrated 60 years of FWTAO with a special dance and a draw for a diamond ring. Labour relations proved tense as the custodians withdrew their services from the schools in 1971 and wastebaskets overflowed as teachers supported their working cohorts. Lambton County had the distinction of being the very first group to test the newly legislated "right to strike" bill in 1978. Remember when we all turned in our keys to the office and picked up our picket signs at dismissal because we would be on strike in the morning? And then after a 2 hour strike in the middle of the night returned to school in the morning as usual?

Then there was that province wide walkout in December 1973 - it's on everyone's pension statement! What drastic action for humble elementary school teachers to take!

We created one Womens' Federation Association from the East and West Lambton units and dubbed ourselves the Lambton County Women Teachers' Association LCWTA so we wouldn't he mistaken for London Women Teachers' Association LWTA.

Times passed so quickly and the 80's were upon us. Curriculum writing teams spent time in the summer creating what was affectionately called "The Orange Crush" and as long as the new photocopiers held out, the kids had the sheets to do their work.

Ditto machines were declared unhealthy and all the fluid had to he taken out of the schools immediately.

Allen Wells was in the chief executive office on Wellington Street and the new Liberal, provincial government (after defeating the 42 year old Conservative

regime), provided us with yet another curriculum document touted to be the new and better way of teaching the children of Ontario. Remember the P1J1?

We tried a pilot project, Junior Kindergarten, at Parkview but it was just too radical to he continued. Primary teachers had their first look at prep time and scripting lessons and assessment were the buzz words. PD days were the way to introduce new ideas and there were many of them. Accountability produced a greater need for stress workshops, the skirts got longer and longer, men's ties got wider and wider and we could wear pants to school without a matching tunic.

Phantom of the Opera, Cats and Les Miserables provided us with easy evening listening, Wayne Gretzky was taking the hockey world by storm and we all wore fluorescent T-shirts and carried our Kettle Creek purses on our class trips after the cross grouping experiences in our schools and the Beatles were still popular.

We bade farewell to Pierre Elliot Trudeau in Ottawa and celebrated Canada Day instead of Dominion Day on July 1. The Constitution came home to Canada with Queen Elizabeth declaring us all grown up now and not a child of Britain.

The Berlin Wall came down and the Cold War was over! We had a war in the Falkland Island, there was a famine in Africa and the Jews and Arabs fought each other in the Middle East.

We became environmentally conscious and searched for ways to stop the greenhouse effect. Stephen King's books were the spookiest things in the bookstores and Mary Kaye formed an all women's company to sell cosmetics. Computers came on the market to be used in schools. A Commodore Pet had all of 16k of memory and we thought there could be no more advancements past the 64. Disks were large. We had arrived into modern technology.

Remember the first extravaganza art display was set up in the Mall with Noah's Ark the theme. Some of the paper mache animals were so large doors had to be removed to get them out of schools for loading on trucks to take to the display. Public speaking was a "must" for all kids from grade four to grade eight. Filmstrip kits were in every library and videos came into being at the end of the decade.

Colour televisions were purchased for the schools but with tiny screens and the only accessible programs were what was on the aerial. A new disease called AIDS was killing people in Africa. The loonie replaced the green dollar bills and Sarnia had a "blob" in the river.

Raiders of the Lost Ark entertained us in the theatres and we watched the advancement of black Americans with The Colour Purple and Driving Miss Daisy. Roseanne and Head of the Class battled quiz shows for top billing on the TV.

The 90's began with a 6 week long teacher strike in the fall of the first year of the decade. The daily newsletter delivered to picket lines all over the county brought up to date facts of negotiations as we each tried to do our best to keep spirits up. Bargainers lost pounds from long midnight hours of talks and stress. Strikers gained pounds from donations of goodies provided by parents and supportive folks on the picket lines. Remember those walks around and around the board office - so many that we wore off the grass? Remember the board members driving cars into our knees as we solemnly walked across the entrances to keep them out of the parking lot? But we stuck to our guns and Ken Toutant had to finally back down on the major issues.

Then came the NDP government, the Rae Days and Social Contract when we stayed home to save money. Another new curriculum with outcomes and strands was touted as the new and better way of teaching the children of Ontario. Computers became smaller and more powerful and worked faster. Disks to store information became smaller too and held more information and fax machines improved communication from place to place. TV's became larger and videos replaced the antiquated films of the past. The internet was the place to surf - not on the sands of Hawaii on a March break.

Kim Campbell set a new record as the very shortest lived prime minister and we elected Jean Chretien to head the country in Ottawa. The economy hit bottom and the loonie was joined by the toonie. Unemployment figures soared and the newly elected Conservatives in Ontario in '95 vowed to balance the budget by laying off only 13,000 civil servants to do it. Medical care was cut and the doctors were upset. Big business merged, out sourced, right sized and down sized and the workers were upset. Bill 160 was passed and the teachers were upset - so upset that we voted for another 2 week walkabout in the fall of 1997... A new curriculum, touted as the new and better way of teaching the children of Ontario was delivered in bits and pieces. The federations amalgamated, the school boards amalgamated and we all looked for pennies that weren't there.

The silver screen showed us Silence of the Lambs and we Danced with the Wolves. Schindler's List reminded us of the horrors of war. Folks travelled to Toronto to see productions of Miss Saigon, Beauty and Beast and Rent and maybe take in a BlueJays game at the Dome. The XFiles gave us new insight into what might be out there and E R and NYPD Blue told us what really was there. The Red Wings won the Stanley Cup and we marvelled at those folks who revealed their life stories to Geraldo, Oprah and Jerry Springer. The Simpsons and the Spice Girls influenced our pupils more than we wanted them to and the Beatles were still popular.

There were more and more meetings farther and farther away, professional development was held after school, PA days diminished in number and one had to have certificates to show professional development for the College of Teachers.

Teachers became more and more stressed and tired trying to do more with nothing. Parent Councils were created in every school to give advice. Principals and vice principals were declared un-teachers and were now school managers. Dress down Fridays even let us wear jeans to work! How shocked those ladies of the past would he if they could see us now! The 85 factor gave many folks an out so they didn't have to justify the problems to the angry parents in September when it would cost more than $100 to send a kid to high school for a year. And the premier declared there was more money for the classroom.

So as we look toward to the new millennium, we celebrate the great moments of the kids we knew (they are still the kids), the memories of those fine folks who have worked so hard to make education in Ontario the best and the melodies from the past and present. We'll have the time, so the retirees tell as, to do all those "Round to It's" we have had to put off for a whole career. It has flown by so quickly. We'll have more time to go to the movies and enjoy a life "As Good as it Gets" and watch the Titanic sink yet again. The only sadness we can see is the fact that we will never be able to look forward to vacations again!

But there isn't a retiree in this room who would change what they have done in their life - work with children and enjoy the youngsters in our care. Teaching is an honourable profession.

So now we fling the torch to those folks who are just beginning and to those who are continuing. We have graduated - we have been in school for many decades and now it is time to move forward into a new phase of our lives. We are looking forward to these new activities where the bells are always turned off and it's always recess!